Among the general public, Alzheimer’s is typically considered a horrible, cruel and devastating disease that destroys its “victims.” But when I recently interviewed experts on Alzheimer’s a slightly different picture emerged.
I recently interviewed Teepa Snow, nationally renowned expert on Alzheimer’s caregiving. When I asked if she thought people with Alzheimer’s can still enjoy life, she answered, “Yes. Almost all people with dementia, even those in the later stages of the disease, can enjoy life if they have the right support and environment.”
The entire book, Creating Moments of Joy: A Journal for Caregivers, is dedicated to this issue. The author, Jolene Brackey, writes, “We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with [people who have Alzheimer’s], but it is absolutely attainable to create perfectly wonderful moments – moments that put smiles on their faces, a twinkle in their eyes, or trigger [pleasant] memories.”
Carole Larkin, owner of Third Age Services in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with dementia issues. When I asked her the same question, she answered, “Absolutely. They can and do enjoy life. That enjoyment, when it happens, is moment by moment – pretty much the same way we enjoy life.”
Tom and Karen Brenner are the authors of You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care. Tom answered my question by saying, “Yes. And their enjoyment in life is based, in part, on our enjoyment of them. It’s like a swinging door – it goes both ways.”
Karen added, “We believe we can reach all people with Alzheimer’s, including those others consider unable to communicate in any way. It’s almost always possible to communicate – even with people who have lost their verbal skills.”