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When you have a question about Alzheimer’s disease or what to do in caring for a loved one with the disease, please call or email us:
When a loved one says things that don't make sense or keeps repeating the same story, do you correct them?
We recently received a great question from a reader regarding the challenges of communicating with the memory impaired.
When communicating with a loved one in the early stages, if they something that may not be correct, do you just go with it or try and correct them? For example, we were watching the Super Bowl last year and my father-in-law kept saying it was the Cleveland Browns... I certainly didn't want to break his heart, so I let him think that. Okay or no?
And, are there ways to get them thinking or telling different stories rather than the ones he is most comfortable with? I am ok with the same story, but I notice that people that aren't around him often get uncomfortable and don't know how to respond.
How to communicate is our biggest unknown. We don't want to cause more frustration, yet want to keep the conversations enriching for him.
Alzheimer's disease can gradually diminish a person's ability to communicate. Not only does the person have more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions, they also have more trouble understanding others.
In the Super Bowl example with your father-in-law, letting him think it was the Cleveland Browns was the appropriate response. One of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is short term memory loss, so even if you had corrected your father-in-law, there is a good chance that a few minutes later he wouldn't remember who was playing anyway. Correcting him may have upset him and it's better to just "go with the flow" if at all possible.
Also, social situations can be more challenging for someone who has the disease. Larger groups of people, more noise, etc. can all lead to confusion for the person. Being able to get him to think or tell different stories is going to be challenging as well, again due to the short term memory loss. The stories that are most comfortable for him are stories from the past, the stories that are stored in his long term memory bank. As the disease progresses, it's not unusual for the diagnosed person to go back further in the past because that is what they can still remember.
Please check out our sheet on Communication Techniques - I think these ideas will be helpful for you in maintaining meaningful conversations with him. See also our Services Handout, and please feel free to call or email if you have any other questions.
Kathy Koman, Helpline Coordinator
Healthy Autumn Muffins
1/4 c liquid vanilla nutritional supplement (such as Boost, Ensure)
1 large egg
1 pkg "Jiffy" Apple-Cinnamon Mix (7 oz)
1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. Grease muffin pans or use paper baking cups
3. Stir or whisk together supplement and egg
4. Add mixture to muffin mix
5. Blend together; batter will be slightly lumpy
6. Allow batter to rest for 3-4 minutes before filling cups
7. Fill muffin cups half full
8. Bake 11-13 minutes or until golden brown
Proper nutrition is important to keep the body strong and healthy. Regular nutritious meals may become a challenge for people with dementia, especially in the middle and late stages of the disease. They may become overwhelmed with too many food choices, or think they have already eaten.
The tips in this topic sheet are general ideas to try if the person is experiencing eating challenges. Each situation is different, so do not feel as though you need to try all of these ideas. Some will be more appropriate to your situation than others. If the person is having difficulty eating, ask yourself the following questions to help you find answers:
Is the problem physical? Sores in the mouth, poor-fitting dentures, gum disease or dry mouth may make eating difficult.
Does the person have other chronic diseases? Intestinal or cardiac problems or diabetes might lead to loss of appetite. Constipation or depression can also decrease appetite.
Is the person agitated or distracted? If agitated, the person probably won’t sit long enough to eat an entire meal. Reduce distractions such as television, radio or outside activity.
Has the person recently changed eating patterns, like the number of meals per day or timing of meals? For instance, moving into a facility that serves three full meals a day may present a change in the person’s customary habits. Does the person have a preferred eating pattern? Some people who are not accustomed to sitting down at the table for three full meals may prefer to have several smaller meals or snacks.
Are there odors or harsh noises in the room that might distract the person from eating?
Is the food appealing in appearance, smell and taste?
Once you’ve evaluated the sources of eating problems, you can take action.
Be flexible about the person’s food preferences
Remember that the person with dementia has long-standing personal preferences. Try to keep these likes and dislikes in mind when preparing his or her food.
Find more tips here!
Free programs offered monthly
The saying “knowledge is power” is more than a cliché, it’s a fact. Learning all you can about the disease and dementia is especially true for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. It can make a huge difference.
There is much to know about the disease itself, and even more to learn in terms of adjusting communication styles, approaches to behavioral challenges, and modifying the basic tasks of personal care that most of us take for granted.
We hear over and over from caregivers that when they learn more about what is happening in the brain throughout the disease process and how they can adjust their approaches, their loved ones or clients are often more content, less agitated and they feel less stress as well. A definite win–win all the way around!
The Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter offers monthly Dementia Care Training programs in a variety of locations in the region to provide a comprehensive educational opportunity for caregivers. This six-hour program is geared toward nursing assistants working in both community-based and long-term care setting, as well as family members caring for a loved one.
Session topics include Overview of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, Improving Communication, Understanding Behaviors, and How to Connect and Engage a Person with Dementia.
For more information about session locations, please see the education calendar in the back of this newsletter, visit http://www.alz.org/cleveland or contact Mary Lambert at 216.231.1485, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Four CEU’s are available for this program.
See more information on all of our upcoming classes.
Art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose. They can provide the person with dementia - as well as caregivers - an opportunity for self-expression.
When planning an art activity for someone with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer's, keep these tips in mind:
• Keep the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem child-like.
• Build conversation into the project. Provide encouragement; discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence.
• Help the person begin the activity. If the person is painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Most other projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.
• Use safe materials. Avoid toxic substances and sharp tools.
• Allow plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.
Take a Tour!
Art in the Afternoon - Museum Tours in Cleveland
The Art in the Afternoon program offers tours for individuals with memory loss and their care partners. These free monthly tours are given at the renowned art collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Clinic. Registration required.
Cleveland Clinic Miller Family Pavilion
9500 Euclid at E. 93rd St., Cleveland
Third Sunday at 2:00 pm
216.448.0232 for info/registration
Cleveland Museum of Art, University Circle
11150 East Blvd., Cleveland
Second Tuesday at 1:15 pm
216.231.1482 for info/registration