Alzheimer’s – 10 Things You Need to Know
‘You talk to me. Nobody else talks to me.’ Pat (my mum)
My mother Pat had Alzheimer’s and she taught me the ten things we need to know. I’ve quoted her to demonstrate these points.
- Alzheimer’s dementia clarification:
There is a lot of confusion between the terms ‘Alzheimer’s’ and ‘dementia’. There are over a hundred different types of dementia and Alzheimer’s is one type. However it accounts for between 60% and 80% of all dementias and is the most feared. Further more, within the category of Alzheimer’s there are many variations.
‘I have no brain cells left.’ My mother’s thoughtful self-reflection when she was at an advanced stage,
- How to communicate with people with Alzheimer’s – The LEV LP:
Listen! Really listen to them
Engage with them in their world.
Validate their experiences – they are real for them.
Do all this with Love in your heart.
- Thoughts continue:
When people with Alzheimer’s can’t remember what they have just said it is easy to presume they can’t think. I challenge this assumption on the basis of things my mother and others have told me. The following comment demonstrates my mother was still capable of thinking even when she was forgetful.
‘I know my thoughts are clear, I’m confused when I can’t remember.’
- Feelings matter:
We need to be aware of the feelings of people with Alzheimer’s, and more importantly, our own feelings when we are with them. Feelings matter because they are about emotions and emotions matter because they have meaning.
‘These are wonderful moments. Remember them and feel them.’
- Meaning matters:
It is through meaning that we experience connection and for this reason things that have meaning matter more to people with Alzheimer’s. Meaning involves feeling and is direct. It doesn’t require the language part of the brain that is often damaged, to be active.
Observing the ocean before us my mother who had been a dancer silently lifted her very stiff arms and moved them rhythmically from side to side, mirroring the undulating movement of the water. What she was seeing had meaning for her and she was able to express this creatively.
- Emotional memory remains:
Research by Professor Oliver Turnbull et al., Bangor University, revealed that the emotional memory of people with Alzheimer’s continues even when other kinds of memory have diminished.
‘I’m remembering all the difficult times – all the people.’
- Emotional learning continues:
Turnbull also found that emotional learning continues, right to the end.
‘We’re much closer now, unlike before. We are like twins.’
- Empathy increases exponentially:
Researchers at UCLA, San Francisco Memory and Ageing Centre found that as cognition declines empathy increases and this happens exponentially.
‘The eyes. I can tell everything through the eyes, every expression, every feeling.’
- Emotional contagion happens:
The term ‘emotional contagion’ means the convergence of emotions between two or more people.
‘I see love coming from your eyes.’
‘Margaret is home and I am home. You are there and between and joining. Our energies are connected.’
- Altered states of consciousness can be transcendental states:
People with late-stage Alzheimer’s have intermittent altered states of consciousness. These can be transcendental and when they are they are enlightening, can bring great comfort and help the person prepare for a good death.
‘It’s difficult living between two worlds.’
‘The stillness of deep love, I cant’ find words to describe it.’
‘I am at peace. I have no worries and no fear.’
‘We’re learning we’re immortal. Death is nothing to be afraid of.’
‘Love never dies,’
The aim of this blog is to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s. I hope you have found what I have written helpful. Don’t forget to pass it on to others who might benefit.
Maggie La Tourelle is author of The Gift of Alzheimer’s – New Insights into the Potential of Alzheimer’s and its Care.
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