Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
The Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis or other dementia is life-changing, for both the person with the disease and their family and friends.
But while memory impairment can change the relationship between parent and child, there are a variety of ways that an adult child can reconnect with their parent.
Be Patient When Communicating
Alzheimer’s often affects one’s ability to both speak and listen effectively. First rule of thumb: be patient, supportive and understanding. Slow down. Speak and express yourself clearly. Use short sentences and simple words. Give your loved one time to communicate. Be patient. Don’t rush the conversation. Don’t finish her sentences for her. But if she is clearly struggling to find the right word, offer her the help she needs.
Choose Appropriate Activities
When you’re looking for activities to engage in with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, turn to the things he or she liked to do before the disease. If your dad once loved to garden, take him outside and let him water plants or help you plant flowers or vegetables. If your mother loved to bake, have her help you in the kitchen. Give her only simple tasks she can handle safely. Revisiting much-loved hobbies and activities can be a truly enjoyable experience.
Keep It Simple
If your parent once enjoyed playing games – from cards to board games – there’s no reason he or she can’t still participate. You simply have to simplify the game and ease up on the rules. For example, if your mother loved to play bridge, a game of gin may be easier to play. Instead of backgammon, try checkers.
Turn on the Music
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends music as a way to connect with people who have dementia. Music holds memories. Play your loved one a favorite song or the music of a favorite artist. Music gives your parent a chance to clap, dance, and sing along.
View Family Photos
Leafing through old family photo albums can trigger fond memories or simply provide comfort.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the ability to express and connect through art in a safe and social environment can help bridge communication gaps and increase self-esteem for persons with dementia. It would seem that the creative process is as important and meaningful as the artwork itself. So bring watercolors, crayons, molding clay, etc. to your parent. Bring magazines or photos to make a scrapbook. Let your parent express herself through painting, coloring, and creating.
Involve Your Children
It’s a well-known fact that children can reach people with Alzheimer’s or dementia at a deep emotional level that adults often cannot. The mere presence of a child can elicit smiles and even laughter. Just be sure your child is comfortable in the situation.
Don’t Forget Your Furry Friends
If your parent is an animal lover, bring a pet to visit. With their soft fur, wagging tails, and sloppy kisses with big wet tongues, animals give unconditional love to everyone. Like children, they seem to be able to touch those with Alzheimer’s and dementia more deeply than humans can.
Pay Attention to Your Parent’s Mood
Above all, pay attention to how your loved one is reacting to your activity. Note if he or she is becoming agitated or frustrated with the activity you’re doing. The purpose of engaging in activities is for your loved one to enjoy herself; not become upset.
About the Author:
Terry Kelly Holm
Executive Director of Memory Care and Assisted Living Services