When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, often it turns out that isolation soon follows. People are afraid that they will visit and not know what to do if the person with Alzheimer's doesn't recognize them. What do they do? What should they say?
The fact is that, with a little understanding of the way that Alzheimer's affects the brain, it can be much easier to connect with a person with the disease and have meaningful visits.
The first thing to recognize is that the person's brain is being attacked by Alzheimer's and they may often be confused and filled with anxiety. Often times it is not that person speaking, but rather the disease.
Additionally, it is critical to appreciate how the person's caregiver, usually the spouse, can feel like a prisoner in their own home as getting out is increasingly difficult and fewer people come to visit.
With this in mind, keep in mind that it is still the same person, even though at times they may not even recognize you. However, they still are affected positively by a smile, kind word and a warm heart. A person with Alzheimer's will respond to clear, slow speech delivered with a big smile. And everything you do that touches that person reduces their anxiety and makes it easier on their caregiver.
Interestingly, the part of the brain that deals with music is remarkably unaffected by Alzheimer's, so the person who cannot recognize their own children may still remember every word to their favorite song from years ago. Look for a way to introduce music into a visit, and you will minister to their soul.
If you'd like to learn more about how to visit and have meaningful connections with someone with Alzheimer's disease, you can attend a free, one-hour seminar Wednesday, Sept 19 at 6:30 PM. The program will be presented by the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Illinois Chapter and hosted by Arden Courts of Glen Ellyn.
There is no cost, but registration is required. Call 815 744 0704.