May 7, 2014

Entertaining People Living With Alzheimer’s – The Simpler, The Better

Simple pleasures can indeed bring great joy to people living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

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Often the activities can be based on something that brought pleasure to the person before getting Alzheimer’s.

Here’s a little story that can serve as an example.

Entertaining People Living With Alzheimer’s

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Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
When I went to visit Ed one day, I realized I’d forgotten to bring any ‘props’ for the visit. Usually I brought something to amuse Ed such as a new stuffed animal, a book with colorful pictures, some of my photographs, a CD with classical music or something like that.

Those things engaged his mind, to the extent that was still possible, and gave us a focal point for interacting.

Suddenly I realized I was wearing a coat with numerous pockets I was sure he would love to explore. I thought the fact that he enjoyed exploring pockets and compartments in clothing, purses or brief cases so much was somehow related to his life-long fixation on ‘luggages’ and his love of exploring all their different compartments.

It was a short, hooded, steel-gray Calvin Klein coat that was down filled and had a soft furry lining.

First I showed him the lining and he caressed it with his hand, repeatedly commenting on how soft it was. Then he rubbed it against his face.

Next I showed him the two side pockets. Almost every coat has side pockets but these were unusual because they had zippers. He ‘oohed and aahed,’ moving the zippers up and down, a look of wonder on his face. It was almost as though he’d never seen a zippered pocket before.

Then I showed him something you really didn’t often see.

The outside of the left sleeve had a zippered pocket on it. That grabbed and held his attention for quite awhile. First he looked to see if there was anything inside the pocket (there wasn’t) and then he played with that zipper, too.

After that the hood caught his eye and he said how wonderful it was to have a hood in case it was raining. I was amazed he made that connection, especially considering how advanced his dementia was.

Soon we went back to our investigation of the coat, starting at the beginning again with the zippered side pockets. He’d already forgotten he saw them before. In that respect his dementia made him so easy to entertain.

Soon we caught up and entered new territory. There was a pocket on the inside where a man’s breast pocket would be. That was unusual in itself for a woman’s coat, but that one was even more original because it, too, had a zipper.

Ed looked at that for several seconds without speaking and then whispered slowly that he liked it.

There were still two pockets left. They were on the inside left near the bottom. One was square; the other, sewn on top of the square one, was rectangular and obviously meant to hold a cell phone.

Unlike the others, which had zippers, those two fastened with snaps. When he saw them he was initially at a loss for words. A look of amazement on his face, he tried to unsnap them. His shaky hands couldn’t manage the small snaps, so I opened and closed those pockets for him.

He stared at them with astonishment, then smiled at me and told me twice how happy he was that I had such a wonderful coat. I was touched that that wonderful demented man was happy for me.

That was so typical of Ed. Instead of saying how happy he was to play with the coat, he said how happy he was that I had it.

As I left I felt loved.

I also felt deeply gratified I’d been able to bring him so much happiness with a simple coat. Just a simple coat with a few pockets.

Do you have a story like this to share with us?

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This is a variation of an article that appeared on the Huffington Post.

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