Jan 7, 2015

Help The Deeply Forgetful Remember The Things They Do

Let me make this clear. You can help a person living with dementia to remember the things they do. After a while they just get on what can best be described as "automatic pilot". From that point on you become their guide.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

It was clear she needed some guidance after Alzheimer's set in
It was pretty simple in a way. One day I decided that Dotty and I would start living life the way we always had.

This started me thinking about what did Dotty usually did each day, and what did she like to do.

I started writing down what I knew. Soon enough I was able to organize this into a daily routine. We stuck, pretty much, to this routine each day.

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One of the things I did was reinvent what Dotty did each morning when she woke. In the past she would turn on the coffee pot, open the front door and get the newspaper, sit down at the kitchen table, and start reading as she drank her coffee (breakfast came later).

It was clear she needed some guidance after Alzheimer's set in.

For example. For some reason my mother would stop dead in her tracks in the morning as she reached her bedroom door. She would call out, I'm act you know. If I didn't get there pretty quick she would start saying, Bobby Bobby where are you?

Every morning she would stop right there like there was some kind of invisible shield. So I would guide her to the kitchen table.

I already had the newspaper reorganized and opened to the section she usually read first, and in the proper order.

I would ask her to read to me from the front page, or comment on the lead story. If there was something about the bad economy she would say, what are people going to do Bobby, how are they going to make it? My mother was born in 1916 so she lived through some very difficult times. Gotta love Dotty. Throughout her entire life she was always worrying about how "people were going to make". She worried about how they were going to feed their kids.

This did not go away with the onset of Alzheimer's. God bless her.

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Next I would go over and put the food section on top. They always had nice color picture of the food with recipes. We would decide on one and then I would ask, read me the recipe. She would read the list of all the ingredients and discuss whether we should try it.

Next I would get her over to comic strip, and eventually she would start working on the crossword puzzle. You might think that a person living with dementia would be unable to do the puzzle. Well until the last few weeks of her life Dotty was still getting some of the 3 letter words. The question of course had to do with something far in the past. I was shocked for years

Dotty though deeply forgetful could still remember the past.

Why did Dotty keep reading the comics and working on the crossword puzzle? Simple I think. We did it every single day. Over and over.

This of course taught me an important lesson.

The deeply forgetful are capable of more than we can imagine.

In fact let me go one step further. Start imaging. Imagine the impossible and then go do it. Hey, you got something better to do? That was my attitude all the time.

I'm going to be here 24 hours a day, so why not try?

I was certain that Dotty would forget how to put her cloths on. I read story about patients that couldn't button buttons etc. I made a decision, and I don't know why, but I decided I am not going to let that happen. My brain was starting to work and my confidence level was high.

I believed in us.

I bought Dotty tops (shirts) with no buttons. She could just pull them over her head. She did. I bought Dotty pants with elastic in them, no buttons it worked.

Can you believe that Dotty put her own bra and panties on every day? Yes she did. I simple put them where she could see them as soon as she stepped out of the shower. Even after I started helping Dotty with her shower, when it became necessary, she still put on her on cloths. All I had to do was guide her.

All I had to do was guide her, and keep my mouth shut.

Be a guide. Use your hand, smile, and a little patience - it works.

Some of the things I developed over the years.

Dotty was falling down all the time. So I bought her some great flat shoes, took her into the gym and taught her the "stand up, sit down" exercise and she stopped falling. She was falling down every day and she just stopped doing.

There is a solution to every problem. This is what I believe. You just have to use your brain, or, get some good advice from a person who has "been there" and "done that".

If I could harness up all the collective energy and intellectual capital of all the Alzheimer's caregivers in the world

We Could Accomplish More Than Anyone Could Imagine.

Here is the best part. We accomplish this by using our brains.

They say, two heads are better than one.

Well I say, one good brain is enough for any two people.

Here are some articles about things I learned as I walked along the path from burden to Joy.

You can do it too. My brain is certain of this and I say it with confidence.

Shoes That Stopped My Mother's Falls

Stand up, Sit Down

Simple Tasks That Helped My Mother Use Her Brain

Wonderful People

The Wake Up Routine

Be A Guide

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

Bob DeMarco  is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.

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