Feb 7, 2011

Is Pete the Parrot an Alzheimer's Caregiver Detective?

Pete the Parrot is quickly becoming an important tool in my Alzheimer's caregiver arsenal.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Pete the Repeat Parrot, love him or hate him? Dotty loves him.

Pete the Parrot

Many of you heard Pete and Dotty in the morning via podcast. Here is something you might not know, Pete is now my Alzheimer's caregiver assistant.


It all started one day when I turned on Pete and a video camera and left the room. When I watched the video I learned Dotty had a headache. I had actually asked Dotty that day at least five times if she had a headache. Every time Dotty said No.

Last week, I decided to enlist Pete to help me to get Dotty to drink the magic Alzheimer's bowel movement elixir -- prune juice. Of late, Dotty had gotten out of her pattern due to her illness. So, I had to start reestablishing those patterns of behavior. This includes the daily prune juice injection. It's working like a champ by the way.

Dotty was back to saying the prune juice was poison. Holding her nose. And, all kinds of antics. I saw all of them in days gone by.

So anyway, Dotty was digging her heals in and refusing to drink the prune juice one day last week. Enter Pete.

Dotty, Dotty
Drink your juice, Drink your juice
Its good for you, its good for you

This goes on for a bit and sure enough Dotty is smiling and talking back to Pete. Finally, Dotty reaches for the glass of prune juice and Pete says

Bottoms up, Bottoms up
Good to the last drop, Good to the last drop

Like magic, Dotty drinks all of the prune juice in one big slug.

Then she starts talking to Pete and laughing away.

You heard that right. Pete makes Dotty laugh. Sooner or later during every conversation with Pete, Dotty starts laughing. Dotty laughs. Pete laughs twice. Dotty laughs harder. Pete laughs harder twice.

My point. A toy parrot is engaging my mother. Pete is raising Dotty's level of engagement. The best part is when she starts laughing. Laughing means good mood, laughing means higher level of cooperation. Higher level of cooperation means less stress. Less stress means greater happiness. It is like a beautiful daisy chain of events, feelings, and emotions.

Pete is many things to us.

First, he is a detective. He gets Dotty to say things she won't say to me.

Second, Pete is an assistant caregiver. He convinces Dotty to do things she doesn't want to do. Here is the best part. Instead of getting all bent out of shape, Dotty does what she doesn't want to do and ends up laughing at the end. All thanks to Pete.

Three, Pete is an entertainer. He can easily entertain Dotty for ten, twenty, thirty minutes. All the while, she is engaged. She is interacting with Pete. Dotty is communicating and her brain is getting some exercise.

What I could really use is a more advanced version of Pete. A parrot I could program to say certain things. I would also like to be able to program Pete to turn on and off, like an alarm clock.

That I believe would be, Bob the Parrot.

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