Thursday, 10 August 2017 00:00

Maintaining a connection with a loved one with dementia

If you have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, it does not signal the end of the road for your relationship or connection with them. As a loved one supporting or caring for someone with either of these diseases it’s important to be realistic about the disease’s effects and how it may change them. At the same time, it is also important to remember that there are many ways to maintain a meaningful connection with the one you love.

Here are some simple ways to build trust, a meaningful memory bridge and maintain a connection with them:

Be present

It is well known that those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia develop an intuitive skill set in recognising and discerning the intentions of others - whether it’s a care giver or loved one. With this in mind, remember that silence and voids in the conversation do not always need to be filled. Non-verbal communication such as ‘being present’, using eye contact, smiles and touch can be just as effective.

Be there for your loved one with your patience, understanding and intention to create a better quality of life for them where you can.

Actions speak louder than words

For many late stage Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, verbal communication is very limited. In this instance, you are still able to create a connection with them in form of actions and not words. It has been proven that to mirror certain actions of a loved one, and not mimic them, is an effective way to create a memory bridge and level of connection.

If your loved one smiles at you, smile back, if they giggle at something, giggle along. It may be simple, but it creates connection.

The power of music

If your loved one is suffering in the late stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, music has proven to be a highly effective way to establish connections and evoke certain memories. Music and rhythmic speech is often stored in portions of the brain that can remain vibrant quite late into various forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

If verbal communication is not an option, play some of your loved one’s favourite songs and hum, tap, clap and sing along!

Learn to go with the flow

Very often elders with Alzheimer’s and dementia have a variability to the stories they tell and conversations they have. At times they may link disparate memories and time periods into a conversation in the ‘present’ time that may not make any sense. In this case, it is important to accept that this may be their version of what is ‘real’ and learn to go with the flow of their recollections and conversations. This, in turn, can help to strengthen your emotional connection with them.

At the core of the ways to maintain a connection should be the understanding that they are not lost or gone – instead, there are still ways to live with hope, dignity and a good quality of life through establishing meaningful connections.

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