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How to Show Alzheimer’s Patients Respect

One essential quality lacking in today’s Alzheimer’s care is a genuine respect for the patient. Whether the patient is a parent, spouse, relative or friend, the diagnosis of cognitive impairment carries the stigma of “losing your mind,” “senility,” or “being empty headed.” As a result, Alzheimer’s patients are laughed at, or ignored sometimes when they are trying to communicate life threatening problems like a heart attack or pain in the abdominal region which require surgery. It’s time to restore dignity to the cognitively impaired. Although there is an erosion of recent memory skills, analytical skills are often still functioning well.

During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, patients have a lot to contribute – intellectually, spiritually and physically. They are often the first to know something is amiss and compensate for skills that are declining. Many in the early stages exercise daily, eat balanced meals, especially adhering to a Mediterranean diet, read, write, calculate, and continue to function well with post-its, to-do lists and other memory aids. Their analytical skills are sharp and helpful. Spiritually, they are focused on the present moment and strive to simplify their existence to manage it; we can all learn this lesson.

During the middle and later stages Alzheimer’s patients and their families face greater challenges. These challenges require adaptation and acceptance. Within the patient lies buried treasure and there are many loving, lucid moments to cherish. This is the time to show respect for the person within, the person you loved and admired before. As I told my daughter while my mother was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, “Let’s focus on what grandma can still do. While she doesn’t remember your name, she smiles and hugs you with all the love she has in her heart. She laughs when we are silly or sing songs off key.” And at the top of our lungs my seven-year old daughter and I sang to my mother a song she used to sing to me, “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?” We added a couple of barks for emphasis. Not only did my mother laugh, but the rest of the nursing home residents in the day room did too!

Here are some tips to show respect to someone who has Alzheimer’s:
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Havits: The Caregivers' Total workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show




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