Jul 14, 2016

3 Ways to Talk and Connect to People Living Dementia

We measure success by a fleeting smile, the squeeze of a hand, wide awake eyes. In caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s, we encourage you to celebrate each moment of recognition, each gesture of connection, every laugh and every smile!

Alzheimer's care isn't easy and requires patience.
By Tom and Karen Brenner
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Over the past ten years, we have used these techniques to create moments of joy and connection for dementia patients, the staff who care for them, and their loved ones.

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

1. All of us feel a kinship with nature, whether we have lived in cities, small towns, or in the country. We like to smell flowers, look at autumn leaves, rub herbs between our fingers, put our ear up to sea shells.

Placing something from the natural world into an Alzheimer’s patient’s hands can be a simple but powerful way to connect them to the world again. We have experienced wonderful conversations about gardens or sledding parties after simply handing someone living with dementia a flower, a bundle of herbs, or a cup of snow.

2. Each of us has some very special parts of our lives that we treasure forever, even when we are living with Alzheimer’s. This special part of our lives may not necessarily be our occupation.

A man may have been a plumber all of his life, but his real passion was for baseball. Knowing this, we can hand him a baseball glove, or a woolen pennant with his favorite team on it. Handling the glove, smelling the woolen pennant can unlock memories of baseball games he attended or the moment when he slid into home plate and won the game.

People living with Alzheimer’s find it very difficult to begin conversations or engage with other people. They cannot remember how to start a discussion, they cannot begin to connect out of thin air. By giving them meaningful objects to hold, whether from nature or from their own lives, we give them a starting point, a way to connect again.

3. Our third technique is to engage people with music.

We encourage you to sing some favorite song or hymn with a person who has dementia. You may be quite surprised to find that a person who struggles to talk can remember all of the words to a favorite song and can sing with gusto! As well as singing circles, we also hold drum circles with Alzheimer’s patients. If a person has a heartbeat, they can play a drum. There is something magical in the way that music can break through the fog of dementia.

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Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Excerpt from:

What is Dementia?

What are the symptoms of Dementia?

In most cases, the symptoms of dementia occur gradually, over a period of years. Symptoms of dementia caused by injury or stroke occur more abruptly.

Difficulties often begin with memory, progressing from simple forgetfulness to the inability to remember directions, recent events, and familiar faces and names.

Other symptoms include difficulty with spoken communication, personality changes, problems with abstract thinking, poor personal hygiene, trouble sleeping, and poor judgment and decision making.

Dementia is extremely frustrating for the patient, especially in the early stages when he or she is aware of the deficiencies it causes. People with dementia are likely to lash out at those around them, either out of frustration or because their difficulty with understanding makes them misinterpret the actions of others.

They become extremely confused and anxious when in unfamiliar surroundings or with any change in routine. They may begin a task, such as cooking, then wander away aimlessly and completely forget what they had been doing.

Dementia is often accompanied by depression and delirium, which is characterized by an inability to pay attention, fluctuating consciousness, hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.

People in advanced stages of dementia lose all control of bodily functions and are completely dependent upon others.

Dementia affects:
  • Emotional behavior or personality
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Thinking and judgment (cognitive skills)
Dementia usually first appears as forgetfulness.

Read the article in full, What is Dementia?