“I remember now. It was us.” Does this line sound familiar? It is from one of the greatest love stories that made it to the big screen, The Notebook. It captured so vividly the heartache that mental deterioration, such as Alzheimer’s, can cause, how it can rob a person of joy, and, essentially, rob them of not only who they were, but who they could be in the present and future.

Unfortunately, scenes like that don’t only happen in movies, but in real life on a global scale. According to the American Psychological Association, 20.4% of seniors are affected by a mental condition, while the Alzheimer’s Association states that in the U.S. alone, 5.3 million Americans, aged 65 and older suffer with Alzheimer’s disease.

Subsequently, patients living with this type of progressive mental deterioration face the agony of losing themselves, not remembering their loved ones, and forgetting all they once knew. In a way, it could be said they’re going through life wide awake, while their mind is asleep, without even knowing the difference. And Alzheimer’s doesn’t only affect the person suffering from it, but it can also take a physical, as well as emotional, toll on all the person’s loved ones.

Remembering to Love Well

One of the most difficult aspects of Alzheimer’s disease is the way it affects personal relationships. With a person’s memory slipping away slowly, a spouse or grandchild may walk into the room one day without being recognized by the person who used to always greet them with hugs and kisses. The whole scenario seems surreal. But, as a spouse, caregiver, son or daughter, one has to remember to love well.

“But what does that mean?”you might ask, and rightfully so. When close friends and family members first find out about this condition, they don’t know how to deal with it. One important thing people need to remember is to love the person for who they are now, and shift their expectation to not receiving the same kind of love back. Holding hands, giving baths, telling jokes and making them smile, giving them a hug if they allow it, are a few simple ways to extend love and kindness, even if the person won’t remember it.

Don’t Forget to Visit and Spend Time with Them

Alzheimer’s disease can become a great of a burden for family members deal with it, which is why they sometimes opt for a nursing home or a special mental health facility. According to National Center for Health Statistics, 50.4% of Alzheimer’s patients are placed in nursing homes, while 39.6% are placed in a residential care community. Although the relationship will never be the same, paying occasional visits, and spending quality time with those afflicted matters.

A few helpful activities that may help family members and friends reconnect with their loved one (even if just for a short time) include exercises, cooking together, going on walks, playing, listening to their favorite songs, and reading their favorite book or watching their favorite movie. Engaging in these activities can sometimes help the patient remember something from their past, even if just for a brief moment.

All in all, Alzheimer’s is like a thief that no one can get rid of. This doesn’t mean family members should stop extending love to the one suffering from the condition. Expectations must shift - that’s often the biggest challenge, but it can be done, and life can continue in a unique way.

Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and traveling as much as possible.

Sally is a guest blogger and kindly shared this story on aging with us.