Notes from a 21 year old caregiver: Alzheimer’s in love.

FACT: Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops this disease.

FACT: Alzheimer’s Disease kills more people than breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined.

FACT: More than 5 million Americans live with this disease, in 2025 this could be up to 16 million.

MYTH: Individuals with this disease can no longer be a part of a loving relationship.

Although times get tough, individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease can still be a strong member of a loving and sometimes intimate relationship. In early stages of the disease, we see very few differences in the emotions and romance between partners. Some even find new ways in which they can share their love with one another.

As the condition progresses, the drive for intimacy can decrease. One may show symptoms such as: detachment, forgetfulness of intimate moments, and/or loss of interest. This is common, and not due to the lack of care they have for the other (healthy) partner. At difficult times, it is highly encouraged for the partner/caregiver to seek coping suggestions from a licensed professional.

It is important to remember that your loved one still feels those deep feelings for you, but is simply unable to show them. Communication can be very challenging for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, and can create many obstacles for a relationship. With practice, I have found a few ways to help.

  • Make intentional eye contact with your loved one and smile often. 
    • Because words are difficult to say and understand, individuals with Alzheimer’s rely heavily on body language an facial expressions for conversation cues. If you are seeming to be angry or bored, although your words may not display it, it will show through your face and posture. This may result in a level of aggression or sadness from your loved one.
    • I have found the best way to pull someone you love out of an angry tizzy to be to look them in the eyes with a calm loving smile on your face and address them by name saying something positive like: “I love you, you look wonderful today, I just spoke with your granddaughter, I heard the BEST thing today, and I think you will enjoy it, or I have something really cool to show you!” It may not work right away, but continuing to smile, maintain eye contact, and redirect the conversation to something positive can help immensely.
  • Use small, digestible words. When asking a question; give no more than two or three specific choices at a time.
  • Especially in intimate relationships, tell them how you feel as much as you can (stick to positive emotions of course!). For instance, if you love them, tell them often and mean it! If you think they look beautiful that day, or love the sound of their laugh, tell them. One of the beauties of this disease is that compliments are, at times, received as if it was for the first time. So compliment them daily. They may struggle with sharing their love for you, but you don’t have to.

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Statistics and information from: alz.org and DementiaToday

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