We measure success by a fleeting smile, the squeeze of a hand, and brightness in their eyes. In caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s, we celebrate each moment of recognition, each gesture of connection, every laugh and every smile! Since AutumnGrove Cottage opened its doors in 2005, we have used the following techniques to create moments of joy and connection for our residents, caregivers, and families.
1. Everyone feels a connection with nature, whether you have lived in cities, small towns, or out in the country. All of us like to smell flowers, look at fall leaves, feel the sand between our toes, and put our ear up to seashells. Placing something from the natural world into an Alzheimer’s patient’s hands can be a simple but powerful way to connect them to the world again. We have experienced wonderful conversations with our residents after simply walking through the yard with them touching all the flowers or letting them help pick vegetables from the garden for dinner.
2. Each of our residents has a very special part of their lives that they treasure forever, even while living with Alzheimer’s. This special part of their lives may be their favorite book, a picture of their family or something from their past profession or hobby.
We have a resident who was passionate about playing the harmonica in his younger years. Knowing this about him, we gave him a harmonica to carry around with him. Even though he doesn’t talk very much when he holds that harmonica in his hands he face lights up with joy and sometimes he will even play a song for the whole cottage. People living with Alzheimer’s find it difficult to begin conversations or engage with other people. By giving them meaningful objects to hold, whether from nature or from their own lives, we give them a starting point for a wonderful conversation.
3. Our third technique is to engage our residents with music. We always play music in the cottage from our residents’ favorite genre. For some its big band, and for others it is old church hymns, but no matter the style of music the residents will sing or hum along to their favorites. To some it is quite surprising to find that a person who struggles to talk can remember all of the words to a song and can sing with gusto! There is something magical in the way that music can break through the fog of Alzheimer’s.