How to Show Alzheimer’s Patients Respect
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:
- Smile, hug, kiss and show affection. Sensory stimuli are important communicators.
- Speak a little more slowly and make eye contact. Always be polite and kind.
- Do not multi-task, like speak on your cell phone to conduct business or chat with a friend while you are visiting an Alzheimer’s patient. This is rude and dismissive, as though you are saying, “You are not worth my attention.”
- Do not argue with an Alzheimer’s patient experiencing a hallucination and invalidate his or her imagination. When feasible, redirect to a photograph, a video, a song or a story.
- Play music from his or her time period, not yours!
- Keep it simple and cozy. During a holiday don’t fill your house with people who might overwhelm or over-stimulate an Alzheimer’s patient and upset his or her routine.
- Manage your personal stress levels and take personal time for yourself. An Alzheimer’s patient will absorb your stress.
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