In this latest post from the AFA Teens Blog, 2011 AFA Teens Advisory Board member, Chris Schloss provides meaningful suggestions on how to overcome the loss of communication caused by Alzheimer's disease.
One of the many frustrating aspects of coping with loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s disease is the loss of communication. More than likely, over time, the disease strips people of their ability to remember words, communicate thoughts and even to understand the life stories you might want to share with them. This limited communication is a fact that many caregivers find hard to accept.
But, in order to move forward through this sad period, caregivers can make the most out of the time they have with loved ones with the disease by cherishing the precious moments that remain. If a caregiver can proceed to this step, he or she might ask many questions: “How do I make the most out of our remaining time?”, “How can we still communicate if I can’t tell him/her anything?”, and “How can I get help?” Both my grandmas currently have or had Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Only one is still here for me now, and I am facing these types of questions as my relationship with her continues to change as a result of her illness.
Now, whenever I tell my grandma anything pertaining to my personal life, it’s hard to believe that it will only entertain her for a few brief moments at most. Lately, it has escalated to the point where we hardly speak because of the pandemonium.
I have discovered that the most successful way to bring her to a calm state is simply to reminisce with her over her childhood memories or engage her in discussion about the things that she enjoys.
Once, during a stretch of long, chaotic days, my sisters and I brought over our black lab. This acted like a quick remedy for happiness; I hadn’t seen her that happy for months. She didn’t stop smiling, laughing and petting the loving dog, and my sisters and I saw a glimpse of how we remembered her a few years prior. Another time, when, things went bad, my mom and I took the advice of another AFA Teens advisory board member and played Puerto Rican Christmas music for her, even though the holiday season was nowhere near. Again, she was ebullient because she still remembered the memories of the carols.
The most important factor in keeping a loved one relaxed and sociable is to make the person feel as comfortable as possible, at all costs. Sometimes, when all else fails, just sitting quietly and holding the person’s hand is the best way to connect. Making the most out of the time you have with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease isn’t necessarily figuring out how to communicate your own personal life, but rather stepping back and enjoying being in the moment.