Imagine having a phone call with your best friend. Then upon hanging up your wife tells you that the friend you just spoke with has been dead for 25 years. How confusing and upsetting would that be?
This is how those living with Alzheimer’s feel when corrected. I have experienced this in my family. The impulse is your loved one needs to be corrected, but in truth the sense of reasoning is just not there. They become confused, angry, and embarrassed. When you experience an older adult with memory loss confused or just wrong in their statements gently find a way to just leave the topic.
The spring NAPO Organizing Conference in San Diego last week had several workshops to better understand the needs of older adults and those with memory loss. My colleague and friend Margit Novak had an informative program on this subject.
Novak shared when moving parents, it is helpful to have the new space arranged as similar as possible in their new surroundings. Other tips include facing older adults when speaking with them and cut out any competition – televisions or other background noises.
The best example I heard to understand how Alzheimer’s affects a patient is to imagine a closed fist is actually a brain. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the fingers on the fist are not damaged but actually completely disappear. The short-term memory goes first, but with proper medicines this can be stayed for a long time.
Understanding the fear and confusion being experienced by dementia and other related memory loss will be helpful in relating to your friends and loved ones. It will not be easier, but patience and compassion will go a long way in sustaining their quality of life.