Jul 22, 2013

2 Alzheimer's Tips That Worked with Dotty

Did Dotty do better than might have been expected during our 8 and a half years together because we lived a life full of activity and engaged in activities that helped her make new brain cells?

By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room 


When I started reading about the stages of Alzheimer's,  and about some of the things that can and do happen as Alzheimers' evolves, I became worried that my mother might stop talking or become unable to talk at some point in the future.

I gave this issue considerable thought and then came up with a plan.

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Tip number 1.

As part of my plan, each morning when my mother, Dotty,  woke up I would move her to the table in our kitchen. I had the morning paper strategically placed and organized so we could start a conversation around the paper.

The first thing I would do is ask Dotty to read me the day and date. This is vitially important. How many times do you ask yourself what day is it, or what is today's date? I understood that Dotty would not remember the day and date; however, I believed it did help add some order to her life at the start of the day.

After the day and date, I would ask Dotty if there was anything interesting on the front page.

If something caught her attention I would ask her to read the story to me. If she did read to me, I would ask her a question or two about the story. Over time, Dotty was unable to answer questions even if she had just finished reading the article to me. This did not disconcert or deter me. The goal was to keep Dotty reading, and in a broader sense, talking since she was reading outloud.

Many time there was nothing on the front page of the paper that caught her attention. If not, I had the food section ready to go. Specifically to the recipes that are featured.

In this section they have pictures of the items you are going to make. I would say to Dotty, hmm, that looks interesting while pointing at a picture of the dish. What is that?

Dotty would follow my finger and then read me the name of the dish. I would then ask her to read me the list of ingredients. If the list of ingredients was short I would ask, do you think we should make it? Dotty would often answer, why not.

If the list of ingredients was long, I would say that is to hard for me to make, what about you? Dotty would usually come up with an answer that would make me smile or laugh.

After all that was done, I would reorganize the paper so that Dotty could see the comics and crossword puzzle. Dotty continued to do the crossword puzzle until about one month before she went to Heaven.

Doing the crossword puzzle all those years helped Dotty make new brain cells. Obviously, Dotty's brain cells were dying faster than she was making new ones. The point here is that you can make new brain cells regardless of age. So, you should be engaging in activities that allow both you and your loved one with dementia to grow new brain cells.

So tip number 2 is engage in activities like reading aloud, discussing pictures, listening to music (music jogs the memory), crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, or talking to a toy repeat parrot like Harvey.

Please resist the temptation to say, my patient can't do this. I had hundreds of Alzheimer's caregivers tell me this or that won't work for us. However, after I encouraged them to be patient and continue trying they almost always discover one of the most important lessons of them all -- persons living with dementia are often capable of more than we can imagine.

Did Dotty do better than might have been expected during our 8 and a half years together because we lived a life full of activity and engaged in activities that helped her make new brain cells?

Some of the scientists I am discussing this issue with around the country believe it is possible.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
To learn more about Alzheimer's and Dementia visit the Alzheimer's Reading Room.