Memory loss and the diagnosis of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease can be quite devastating to a family member.
But today, I want you all to understand that a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean your loved one can no longer have quality of life.
Your loved one can still laugh, be happy and participate in meaningful activities. In fact, your loved one will experience moments of happiness in the trivial and mundane that many of us could benefit from ourselves! A hearty laugh, a warm hello, a pat on the back, a nice compliment, and shared time together are all great ways to spread the cheer.
Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying, I know that as the disease progresses it can be extremely difficult on the primary caregiver and family members. However, let’s try and maximize every opportunity we have while we can.
When someone has memory loss they need a routine and structure to their day. They need to feel safe and comfortable in their home environment and participate in conversations and/or activities that are positive and failure free.
Here are some ways you can achieve this success:
Validate your loved one’s feelings: Often times we try and orient our loved one to reality. However, this is not to be done when someone has dementia. Your goal is to validate their feelings through your verbal and non-verbal gestures. I often educate my clients on how to communicate effectively with their parents and here is an example of validation;
Client: “I have to get better, I am supposed to go skiing this winter in Europe”
Our initial response would be to correct the individual, as we know very well they are not going skiing. However, what good would that do? They are obviously very excited about this possibility and who are we to take away this excitement from them.
Response: “That must be amazing, you are going to have to tell me all about your trip when you get back”.
By agreeing and validating my client’s feelings, I was able to generate a wonderful emotion in them. If I would have corrected my client and responded by saying, “you must be mistaken, you are not going skiing” she would have been sad, confused and frustrated. The emotion of happiness will stay with them even after our conversation is finished.
Be patient: It is really difficult to spend an extended period of time with your loved one as they can become extremely repetitive. It is important to be patient and redirect your loved one as needed. Try and engage them in a specific activity that can direct their attention elsewhere. The repetitiveness may be due to feeling insecure or anxious, assess the situation and non-verbal cues are really helpful to help them feel more secure.
Easy failure free activities: keep some photo albums, magazines and music nearby. Reminiscing is a wonderful activity to do with your loved one. Often times, when someone is diagnosed with memory loss they have difficulties with their short term memory, however, their long term memory is in tact. Looking at photo albums or magazines will generate conversation and your loved one will love to discuss their prior experiences and memories with you. Music always will generate a positive emotion, play some old time music and get up a dance! Don’t be shy 🙂
Think of social activities that your loved one used to enjoy and try to incorporate them into their day to day routine. If they were a homemaker, you can have them assist with some of the household duties: laundry, washing dishes. It may not be perfect but they will be very happy that they are contributing and helping you with a task.
Know their limitations: Noise and large crowds can be extremely overwhelming for your loved one. Sometimes, it is best if they miss the party and/or celebration in favor of a quiet day at home. Although they will be missed, the anxiety that they will feel in a large group setting can trigger an array of behaviors.
Alzheimer’s Disease can be really difficult to navigate on your own. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out for help.
Outside support can help you manage the moods and behaviors associated with memory loss.