Discovering how you can relate to your parents when they have dementia of the Alzheimer’s type can be very challenging. One of the biggest of these challenges is that your loved ones “change” in their abilities to relate to you and to function from hour to hour during the day, and from day to day. It is critically important to learn about this progressive disease so you can navigate as best as possible to properly care for them. There are many websites and sources of good information about that, including our Resources Page.
Whether or not your parents’ illnesses have gotten to the point where you’ve had to institutionalize them, you may find yourself feeling awkward, having difficulty holding conversations and generally feel uncomfortable visiting, or even being with them. You may simply not know how to reach or connect with them anymore. That feeling is probably worse for you than it is for them. But, we’re here to help you and them, so we’re sharing six ways to better connect that have shown good results, even with those in the last stages.
1. Connecting through music – Increasingly research is showing that music is an important connector and can be a real boon during times when their verbal skills may be diminished, making conversation hard. Sadly, although patients may not remember their own close relatives, they often do recognize a song that they use to know. Listening to familiar tunes, they may be able to recall the lyrics and generally have a great time. Music (of most sorts) appears to both comfort and engage those who suffer from Alzheimer’s.
2. Bonding through animals – The unconditional love of a dog or cat can offer a connection to Alzheimer’s patients, sometimes more easily than humans can. The soft fluffy fur, the loving licks and adorable eyes seem to help those with Alzheimer’s feel alive and understood. You will find some facilities that offer “visits” from trained animals and/or permit animals to live with the patients or you may ask the one where your parents are to include this service.
3. Looking over old photo albums – Browsing through photos from their childhood or yours and sharing old periodicals from the past may provide a sense of safety for your senior parents with dementia, even helping them to remember things from their past. You may find that the illness has loosened their grip on time and your parents may ask about past events as if they were occurring now, even inquiring why their parents don’t come to see them.
4. Creating Artwork – Many patients with Alzheimer’s have benefited from creating artwork or doing art therapy. Coloring, painting, sketching, scrapbooking or molding things out of clay are all safe ways for patients to be able to communicate where words fail. Even looking at art can help some Alzheimer’s patients feel more calm and at ease.
5. Creating a Memory Bag for them – You can assemble a “bag” of goodies, including scents that may be familiar to your loved ones, in the form of perfumes, lotions, candles or essential oils. Scents are strongly tied to memory and may allow them to feel less confused.
6. Bringing Children for them to enjoy – Children have a way of bringing smiles to our elderly and those with Alzheimer’s are no exception. Children”s spontaneity and enthusiasm for life are contagious — in the best sense of that word.
Have you had a difficult time connecting with your parents with Alzheimer’s? How have you been able to feel more connected to them? Please share your experiences with us by commenting below.