Alzheimer’s Patients Can Still Have Fun in Life
Alzheimer’s Patients Can Still Work
Have Fun in Life
Today I saw a marquis that said, “Thankfulness begins with a good memory.” I strongly disagree. Even those with bad memories can be thankful. To be thankful, all that is required is to be alive and present in each moment to the wonder and utter enjoyment of this gift of life that we have all been given, as well as an ever-awakening awareness of the divine flame that dances in all things, at all times, and invites us to join in the dance.
Many people see Alzheimer’s as a cruel and devastating disease that annihilates its ‘victims.’ One that strips them of their humanity. There’s almost nothing more terrifying than learning a loved one has developed this difficult illness and contemplating what the diagnosis entails.
When a diagnosis is made, care partners may experience deep depression and despondency. Anticipatory grief may also develop. One realizes that life as planned has been lost for good. It may appear that companionship and intimacy have vanished.
The caregiver may also become enraged at the situation and at God for the painful reality that his loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. The caregiver may even become enraged at his or her loved one who has the disorder. It is not uncommon for care partners to experience a period in which they do not want to visit their loved ones.
Yes, it appears that Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease, and those who have it will never be able to enjoy life again. However, when Marie interviewed and read the books of several disease experts, a slightly different picture emerged. Although Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, experts unanimously agreed that people with it can and do retain the ability to enjoy life.
“Too much attention has been paid to the ‘tragic side’ of Alzheimer’s disease,” write Virginia Bell and David Troxel in The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care. This is a horrifying disease. However, focusing on the negative makes it all too easy to victimize people with the illness and accept lower standards of care.”
Teepa Snow, a nationally recognized Alzheimer’s caregiving expert, also believes that people with Alzheimer’s can enjoy life. “Yes,” she said in an interview to Marie. Almost all people with dementia, even those in advanced stages, can enjoy life if they have the right support and environment.”
Jolene Brackey’s book, Creating Moments of Joy: A Journal for Caregivers, is entirely dedicated to this topic. “I have a vision,” says Brackey. A vision in which we will soon look beyond the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and concentrate our efforts on creating moments of joy.” “We cannot create a perfectly wonderful day with [people with Alzheimer’s], but we can absolutely create perfectly wonderful moments—moments that put smiles on their faces, a twinkle in their eyes, or trigger [pleasant] memories,” she adds.
Carole Larkin, owner of Third Age Services in Dallas/Fort Worth, is a geriatric care manager who specializes in assisting families dealing with dementia. When Marie asked Larkin if she believes people with Alzheimer’s can still enjoy life, she replied, “Absolutely.” They can and do have fun in life. When it happens, that enjoyment is moment by moment—pretty much the same way we enjoy life.”
Tom and Karen Brenner, a husband and wife Alzheimer’s caregiving team, train family members, professional caregivers, and medical staff in the use of cutting-edge dementia interventions. “Yes,” Tom replied to the same question. And, in part, their enjoyment of life is based on our enjoyment of them. It’s like a swinging door: it works in both directions.”
“We believe we can reach all people with Alzheimer’s, including those who others believe are unable to communicate in any way,” Karen added. Even with people who have lost their verbal skills, communication is almost always possible.”
Individuals in Various Stages of the Disease
Alzheimer’s patients in the early stages
Activities enjoyed prior to Alzheimer’s can provide an opportunity for shared interaction in the early stages of the disease. Some activities, however, may need to be modified to accommodate the loved one’s declining mental capacity. Consider a simple card game in place of bridge, or checkers in place of chess. Jigsaw puzzles with fewer and larger pieces are another example of a simplified activity. (Such puzzles can be found at puzzlestoremember.org.)
People suffering from Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s patients in the middle stage have lost more of their mental and some of their social skills. While old standbys like looking at old pictures or watching movies together are fine, they are somewhat passive activities. More active ways to spend time together can be found with a little thought. This could include giving the person ‘props’ to play with together. ‘Play’ and ‘together’ are the key words here.
People who are in the final stages of the disease
Snow created ‘Senior Gems,’ a system that divides people with Alzheimer’s into six categories, each named after a gem, in collaboration with Senior Helpers, an in-home care company. Sapphires, Diamonds, Emeralds, Ambers, Rubies, and Pearls are the various categories. The ‘Gems’ table depicts the basic characteristics of people at each stage of the disorder and offers suggestions for interacting with them. Pearls are at the most advanced stage of the disease.
Pearls: According to the ‘Gems’ table,
“Such as pleasant sounds and familiar voices.” They also prefer to be warm and cozy. It is beneficial to read or talk to people in this category about happy memories. Your words may be lost on them, but your voice will be soothing. You could also bring them a new extra soft blanket or sweater to wrap up in, as well as brush their hair and apply lotion to their skin.”
Yes, people with Alzheimer’s can and do have the ability to enjoy life.