Archive for March 2015

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Why I Volunteer to Visit People With Alzheimer’s

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

I had just returned home from my weekly visiting and was sitting lost in thought. Lost in the memory of my just-completed visit to Ruth (not her real name).

She was quite confused that day. She told me that she had tried to rent an apartment that she liked very much, but before she could conclude the deal they fixed it up for someone else. I knew that wasn’t true but I empathized with her. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said.

Then I changed the subject to something pleasant. “I see you have some Sees candy here. Do you want a piece?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Will you have a piece with me?”

“Of course,” I answered. “Gimme that box!”

When I finally told her it was time for me to leave, she got a pouty look on her face and asked, “Oh, do you have to go?”

“Yes, I’m afraid I have to leave now. I wish I didn’t, but I’ll come back and see you next week.”

Then she walked with me to the door. She put her arms around me and hugged me very tightly.

“Oh, I sure am glad you stopped by. I depend on you. You’re my friend,” she said.

“I love coming to see you,” I said.

“See you next week,” I told her as I went out the door.

“See you,” she said, smiling and very gently closing her door.

This is why I volunteer. I felt warm all the way home. And I’m looking forward to next week when I can “find” the candy and enjoy some. But mostly so I can see Ruth again and experience the warmth and love we have in our very special relationship.

 

 

Don’t Ask Who, What, When, Where, Why or How

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

When talking with a person who has Alzheimer’s it’s best to avoid questions whose answers are too specific (who, what, where, or when) and also avoid ones whose answers are too complicated (why or how).

For example if you ask, “Did your daughter visit you this week?” your loved one may not remember. They may not even remember they have a daughter.

The same goes for questions such as “What did you do this morning?” Again, they probably won’t have the faintest idea what they did and they may just feel embarrassed or stupid.

It’s best to let the person save face and ask, “Are you enjoying your day?” or “How are you feeling today?”

Instead of asking, “Where did you go on the drive they took you on today?” you might ask, “Did you enjoy the drive?” (This assumes they just got back from the drive and will remember they went on one.)

Why and how questions tend to be too complicated for a person with Alzheimer’s. For example, they may have difficulty answering, “Why are you in such a bad mood today?” Again, you might say, “It seems you aren’t feeling well today.”

How questions also tend to have complicated answers. An example would be “How did you find your purse?” (which she had lost). She probably won’t remember she lost her purse let alone that she later found it.

We may also forget and ask,” Where did you find your purse?” And again she may feel bad that she can’t remember.

It’s better to say, “I see you found your purse. You must be happy about that.”

This is simple advice but it’s often hard to remember. So there we go again asking questions they most likely won’t be able to answer. “Where did they have the church service this morning?” or “Why did you skip the church service?”

We have to keep reminding ourselves not to expect them to remember recent details and not to be able to answer questions whose answers are complex.

 

 

10 Tips for Nonverbal Communication

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
  1. Don’t Talk From Behind Them: Despite your best efforts you may sometimes forget this one, as described above.
  1. Make Eye Contact: This tip is related to the one above. If you’re standing behind the person you can’t make eye contact.
  1. Be at Their Level: If both you and they are standing that’s fine. But if they’re sitting on a chair it’s best if you kneel in front. This is especially important if they are in a wheelchair. Otherwise they will have to look up at you and they may feel you’re towering over them.
  1. Use Therapeutic Touch: People with Alzheimer’s may yearn to be touched, but you should ask for permission first and tell the person what you are going to do. Otherwise they may become alarmed.
  1. Don’t Make Sudden Movements: This, too, may scare the person.
  1. Offer to Shake Hands Every Time You Visit: They probably won’t remember you did it the last time. Put your hand out; they may reach for yours. If not let it go. This tip is related to therapeutic touch.
  1. Use Laughter. Alzheimer’s is a deadly serious disease. Nonetheless, sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Be sure to have some light-hearted stories to tell the person at each visit. I have found they may counter by telling you a funny story. Just be sure you’re laughing with the person, not at them.
  1. Use Visual Cues: Point, touch or hand them the item you want them to use. For example, if you want them to drink some water, point to it or put a full glass near them and/or then pick it up and hand it to them.
  1. Palms up: Never sit with your arms crossed. This tends to convey anger just as it does when interacting with a person who does not have dementia. If you have your palms up it will probably be interpreted by the person as “I’m receptive to you” or “Take my hand” or “I like you.”
  1. Smile a Lot: This is probably the most important guideline of all. You will want to do this at any time (except if the conversation is more serious), but particularly when you’re telling the person something pleasant or humorous and when the person is telling you something of a like nature.