I hope this month’s title isn’t too upsetting. I wanted something to convey the whole experience of personality loss. It can be harder to deal with than ordinary bereavement.
Those of you looking after your family member or life-long friend will know. Those of you tasked with caring for someone losing or who has already lost themselves, may find it hard occupying who you’re working with.
Recently, I was approached by a volunteer with a charity that supports Alzheimers patients. She wanted advice on coming up with activities. This month’s post is my response. For her and anyone coping with anyone with dementia symptoms, e.g. via Lewy Bodies (DLB) – a form of Parkinson’s. I hope it helps.
5 Top Tips
1. Shape activities in the here-and-now in ways that match their long-ago.
Activities that mimic what a person used to enjoy physically. If someone used to work for the Post Office, ask them if they’d like to help you sort through paperwork that needs shredding and paper that can go straight into recycling.
Activities that draw on past knowledge. E.g. Maths quizzes using old money.
2. Make activities sensory.
If someone’s attention / perspective comes and goes, conversation is a challenge. Your own sense of engagement with who you care for needs support from them. Resources that stimulate memories or stories can help. E.g. listenning to old 45’s or 12-inch singles together. (I’m assuming you young’uns out there know what they are. Vinyl is back in fashion after all.)
Activities can also be about the look, feel and smell of something. (D’you know there are some people who still prefer the smell of a well thumbed novel to the feel of a Kindle.)
3. Encourage teamwork.
Maintain, or at least slow the loss of social skills. Anything requiring co-operation is good. Discussing methods for doing a jigsaw puzzle (“corners and sky first”, for example) is unnecessary. It is enough to let the picture emerge as you compare and contrast each piece together.
4. Make it physical first… (As far as possible.)
Gentle movement is enough to keep the circulation going; there’s no need for a sweaty workout down the gym’. How about kicking or throwing a giant sponge ball between two, three or four people? If someone is chairbound, they can still join in if they want.
5. Be present
Be prepared to connect with your patient or loved-one’s reality as they perceive it. N.B: I DO mean “as they perceive it”. And be prepared to be persuaded that their way to do something is the better way!
To better understand what an Alzheimer’s personality goes through, here’s another helpful link.
For more general information and assistance about Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, click on the logos below.
That’s it for February.