Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why Visit Someone with Alzheimer's?

Please, I am BEGGING you, if you have a friend or family member with Alzheimer's disease, STAY IN CONTACT with him or her! The saddest part of my mother's Alzheimer's struggle was that many of her friends seemed to drop off the face of the earth. I understand that they were uncomfortable, worried that she might not remember them. What would they talk about? What if they brought up something she didn't remember- would that upset her or make her feel bad?

So here is the real deal. Yes, it's awkward. No one wants to see a dear friend struggle for words, or looking at you with a blank stare. On the flip side, even once someone who has dementia no longer recognizes you for the relationship you once shared, he or she still can sense the so-human link of affection. A big smile and laugh as you are "reminding" them of an old story involving the two of you will bring a moment of joy and often a real connection. Know that in the early and moderate stages, when the Alzheimer's patient no longer initiates conversation, she may still have full recall of remote events.

Pictures and music are also very powerful bonds. Think of that commercial jingle you can't shake out of your head. Similarly, old songs from the radio or traditional religious or patriotic songs pop right back into an otherwise confused brain. Simply flipping through old photo albums or singing songs can also turn on that faulty switch in their brain.

Finally, if there is a spouse, keep in touch with them as well. Pick up the phone and give them a call, and don't worry about what you are going to say. Saying ANYTHING is a million times better than nothing!

BOTTOM LINE: This Thanksgiving week, reconnect with any friends or family members who have been struggling with the non-glamorous challenge of dementia, and give thanks if your brain is still healthy!

PS. Our family is TREMENDOUSLY thankful for all the friends and family who continue to love and support first our Mom and now our Dad in their battles with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's dementias. God bless you!

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