Understand that a person with Alzheimer's will lose their short-term memories, but retain some long-term memory if we learn how to trigger them.
Remember their greatness. Find out what brought them joy in their younger days and use those memories to help them feel great again. Frequently the Alzheimer resident will stop doing "their greatness" in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, because it causes them frustration. What we can put back in their hands may possible trigger their whole memory on how to do something again.
Live their truth. Enter their reality, what they think is going on in their lives, even if it isn't what is really going on currently. When someone is looking for their mom, we need to give them an answer that assures her that her mom is perfectly OK. By giving answers that make sense to the resident, they are able to relax and not worry where mom is. Under normal circumstances, it seems like you are lying. I reassure you it is not lying, but it is "living their truth." Ask yourself this; would you ask someone where your mom was if you knew she was no longer living? A person wouldn't ask these questions unless it is very real in their minds.
Universal reasons. Find answers to their queries that work for them in the reality they are in. If they are looking for their parents, "your mom is cooking dinner, your dad is working the farm". You would think "she's getting groceries," would work. But in their generation, mothers didn't leave the homestead very often. You need to figure out where she thinks her mother would be right now.
I want to go home. Home can mean many things, it may mean they want out of the room they are currently in, it may mean the house they were raised in, it may mean their memory care apartment. Try responses like "oh won't you stay for tea? Dessert? Lunch? I just put on a pot of coffee. I need your help with this project. Or, your mom just called and it's too dark to walk home and she would like you to stay here until morning." The guilt that families feel when their loved one says they want to go home must be immense. Please know, that even if you did bring your loved one to your home, they would still want to go "home". The "home" they are looking for no longer exists. The best thing you can do is help them feel safe and secure in the place they need to live.
Sense of belonging. For some people with memory loss, the place they need to live will never really be home. Any human being would feel some level of fear and insecurity if they were in an unfamiliar place. Focusing on making the situation seem temporary can alleviate some of their anxiety. If they feel this arrangement is temporary, they are more likely to relax and enjoy their day.
Stop correcting them. You need to change the way you respond to them because they cannot change. Think about this; would they be wearing someone else's sweater because they like wearing other people's clothes? Would they be in someone else's room if they knew it wasn't their room? Would they tell you they had no place to stay if they knew they did? No. This tells us they are doing the best they can with the abilities they have left. No matter how many times we correct them, can they change? No, but we can.
You are wrong they are right. Think about it, if you are always wrong and they are always right then there is nothing to argue about! We need to take the word "No" out of our vocabulary. For instance, "No mom you live here now and dad has passed away." Can be replaced with "Dad's at the hardware store again. He can fix just about anything". Or "Sue I am your husband, don't you remember me?" can replaced with "Yeah, sometimes your husband is pretty stubborn, but he sure does love you."
You know the old saying "Think outside the box." With dementia this is the golden rule. Never assume something won't work. Experience is your best teacher.
All from the book "Creating Moments of Joy" by Jolene Brackey
Article Submitted by: Cathi Jackson
San Juan Villa, Jefferson County's only memory care community
112 Castellano Way, Port Townsend