Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dementia

The last few months of his life Dad suffered from dementia and Mom's Alzheimers got progressively worse during her last six or seven years.  This book excerpt on the subject gets a couple of important things right:
It is important to remember two fundamental points when interacting with people struggling with dementia. First, the older adult with dementia is still an adult that deserves respect, honor, and admiration. It bothers me when healthcare workers (who should know better) treat dementia patients like toddlers. No matter how reduced an older adult’s mental faculties are, baby talk does not improve communication, and it is degrading to older adults. Second, it is crucial to remember the older adult is suffering from a disease that affects memory, cognition, and behavior, so do not take things personally. It is difficult when a parent forgets who you are, expresses no appreciation for your care, and may even be assaultive toward you, but it is futile to engage in fruitful discussion about these matters—go instead to God with your burdens.
Repetitive questions are characteristic. My brother came up with the idea of laminated sheets of paper containing answers to Mom's most frequent questions. We attached one to the wall in view of her chair — her vision was good and she could read — and another copy on the table beside her. That helped her a lot. When she asked whether she had a husband, for instance, we or her attendant would refer her to the answer and she was, for the moment, satisfied. Mom had also written her "Memories" some years before and she spent hours reading and re-reading that. The most important realization for us was that each time she asked a question it was, for her, the first time, and we needed to treat it as such.