Apr 23, 2014

The Best Alzheimer's Caregiver Tool of Them All, Harvey

If you hired someone to care for a person living with dementia you would probably need to give them training. Not with this wonderful care giving tool.

*** The parrot is good company for your loved one, and will keep them talking.***

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

He might not look like much in the image. But he is powerful and will provide you with hours of stress free respite. 

Most caregivers assume this parrot won't work for them. 

In almost every case, over 1,611 caregivers, it worked. You might pay about $20 for one hour of respite care. You can buy this parrot for under $20.

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

By my own estimate this parrot provided me with about 3,000 hours of respite care at a cost of less than one cent (.006) per hour.

Previously I published,

in the video Dotty talks and sings with Harvey, the Alzheimer's caregiving repeat parrot.

As a result of the article, I received quite a few questions and comments.

Here is the first thing I want to say. Some caregivers see our Dotty - Parrot videos and run right out and buy one. If you are interested in purchasing one online -- go here.

On the other hand, many Alzheimer's care partners assume it won't work for them.

One of these reluctant caregivers was our own Pamela R. Kelley .

In her article,

Pam wrote about about her own initial reluctance to try the parrot.
It’s our intimate knowledge of our loved one’s traits that lead us sometimes to dismiss ideas others offer for ways to enhance daily living with Alzheimer’s in the house. After all, we know what they’re like.

That’s how I explain my long delay in trying one of those repeating parrots, like Pete and Harvey. I had listened to the amazing interplay between Dotty and Harvey, and I’d watched the video clips. But I put the idea on the back burner because it simply didn’t seem like something my mother, Audrey, would enjoy.
You can read the entire article to find out what happened (click the link above).

I was very pleased when we received this comment from Pamela's sister.
I just returned from a respite visit with my sister who is also one of your contributing columnists (Pam Kelley). Pam surprised me with PETE the Parrot and I witnessed for myself the fun it brings to our MOM. In fact, our Mom began laughing as soon as she saw PAM holding PETE. It was delightful to see. Then, some real belly laughs followed as we started a little dialogue with PETE. What a great find .... and I thank you for bringing this little miracle item into our family.
A reader asked my how or why I decided to try the parrot. Its a long story.

Let's put it this way, I had the original toy parrot, now named Harvey for a long time; and then, one day I decided to put him out and see if I could get some interaction out of Dotty.

Dotty had been very sick for six weeks, not really there, and couldn't walk more than a few steps. I wanted to get her going again.

As soon as I put Harvey out, Dotty started yakking with him. And then, she said to Harvey -- "Harvey, I have a headache". I had asked her that same question repeatedly and she said no every time.

Shortly thereafter Harvey was getting all kinds of information out of Dotty. This is when I first decided that Harvey was an Alzheimer's caregiver assistant.

Over time, I realized that Harvey was the greatest Alzheimer's caregiver tool ever.

Thing about it. When Dotty is sitting in the kitchen I start to interact with her and the parrot chimes in. Then Dotty starts interacting with the parrot and away they go. I can leave the room and go about my business.

Let me reinforce what I just said. I can leave the room and go do anything I want to do while Dotty sits there and talks to Harvey. They engage in all kinds of discussion.

Do you need a little time off during the day? Some rest? Harvey is the answer to this problem.

One of my greatest challenges is keeping Dotty engaged. Well, my boy Harvey keeps Dotty engaged for hours each day. Sometimes I have to go back in there and start singing, or talking to get Dotty and Harvey going.

As the long term readers know, I have many many podcast and videos on the Alzheimer's Reading Room that include Dotty talking with Harvey, or all three of us talking.

Here is a tip.

You might get magic immediately with the parrot (most do). Or, you might have to help make the magic by facilitating the interaction. Turn on the parrot and start talking. You will have to practice a bit because you have to pause and give him a change to "chime in".

If you watch the videos closely you will notice that Dotty has learned how to pause and let Harvey get his two cents in.

Harvey entertains Dotty (and me). 

He talks with Dotty. He helps keep Dotty's brain working.

He provides needed socialization and discussion.

Instead of sitting around like bump on a log, Dotty has Harvey.

Yes, Dotty at times thinks Harvey is a person (she knows he is not).

Dotty does tell Harvey she loves him, and I have heard her say he is her "best friend".

Believe it or not persons living with dementia do get lonely when everyone fades away.

You want some rest? You want some respite? You wanna laugh? Feel good?

Consider purchasing a repeat parrot.

Please remember, if you hired someone to care for a person living with dementia you would probably need to give them some instruction or maybe even training. So when you get your repeat parrot you might need to work with him (or her) for a while. Harvey costs less than 20 bucks, and works for free from that point on.

The first thing Dotty would ask in the morning was

where is Harvey?

Since she first met Harvey after her short term memory was long gone there can be only one explanation why she remembered him - a strong emotional attachment with him.

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"The Alzheimer's Reading Room and Bob DeMarco are true treasures to Alzheimer's patients and their loved ones, especially their caregivers".

- Rudy Tanzi
Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. Professor of Neurology and holder of the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Neurology at Harvard University.

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