Support for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients and their Families and Friends
Just this past year I went to visit my grandmother in the hospital. I walked in and she was just chatting away with the nurse about things from years earlier as if they had just happened. She then turns and looked at me and said, “He has Paul’s eyes.” She never realized I was there and a few days later she recognized me and never remembered the earlier visit. While this was the first time I experienced someone with dementia or Alzheimer it was the first time for a close family member. It gave me a better understanding of how families felt when that family member forgets them. What I also learned is most patients under medical care seemed to get along with people they just meet better than people they had known for years. The difference seemed to be listening and acceptance.
While Hospice care tends to dying patients I would like a program that provides care for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients and their families. If I had the unlimited resources I would provide service helping families and patients during this difficult time. The process will be pamphlets, counselors, and training classes given by professional counselors. Have you ever greeting someone in passing and I had to think about their name or how they knew you? I believe everyone has dealt with the situation with acceptance. I believe you treat patients and their loved ones with that same concept and teach love ones to accept the person as they change.
Many people choose to try and get the patient s to remember who is who, whether talking to them or showing them pictures. If they are interested they may look but most after time will get frustrated or the family members and friends may get hurt feelings. My program would focus on collecting memorabilia for family and friends not for the patient. If the patient chooses to look at the pictures or old artifacts they will ask or come up with their own story. My Step-father mother would come to his house and thought he was her brother and the house was one of her favorite restaurants. I saw three things that let the situation keep everyone civil. First acceptance, why try and argue or confuse her more she was happy so they would just say, “okay.” Second if she asked who someone was, we kept the answer short and simple. And the most important thing we learned was a hug goes a long way when someone feels lost or confused.
My plan is to train nurses, caregivers and family members to follow these steps. Keeping in mind not everyone with these disorders gets a nursing home or home care so it is important that everyone gets the information. First step is accepting the situation, and the family. Show the pictures, greet them like the friend passing. Listen to their concerns and keep the answers short and simple. I firmly believe that greetings are best given with a hug.
Looking at photos create memories, short answers keep the confusion and frustration levels down and finally ‘Hugs’. I believe that patients who receive the hugs feel they can trust the person or at least feeling closeness. The person giving the hug (even if they don’t like hugs) may never remember the multiple hugs but they will remember that loved who didn’t know them or recognize one day hug them back. That’s the goal is to create a memory you cannot take a picture of.
I look at old pictures of myself and family members; I have different memories of those pictures than my family. I remember all the hugs from my grandmother, sometimes to tight, sometimes too long. Yet the ones I remember most are the hugs I returned. When you see that person who is not sure who you are or how they know you return your hug that will create a memory that you will remember.