Help for talking to alzheimer’s and dementia patients. First I’m not in any way qualified in this field, this is just an idea based on a comment from someone who has worked with dementia & alzheimer’s patients. At the bottom of this post are links to some official guidelines to aiding patients.
My friend worked in a care center where most people did the bare minimum of care during their shift, probably due to the minimum wage they are paid for the job. Wouldn’t you put more effort into your job if the money was better? I guess this is a topic for a different post though…
Back to this post then. While chatting with my friend they described how they liked to chat to patients when possible, partly to pass the time & partly because they’re co workers wouldn’t get up first to help a patient as they knew my friend would! She described how one patient would start chatting about different photo’s as if that photo was ‘the present time’ regardless of how many years ago the photo was taken.
This gave me a simple idea (& I like to keep things simple in an ever more complicated world). Get the patients family to bring in pictures from the patients life back to childhood if possible. Get them enlarged & put them on the walls from left to right around the walls of the patients room, starting with earliest / childhood pictures on the left to most recent last on the right. I guess size & number of pictures will depend on the status of the patients eyesight.
Next start to engage the patient in conversation about a picture with a comment such as ‘is this you in this picture?’ At some point or picture you may trigger a response from the patient if the picture has triggered a memory response. Pay quiet attention to the patients conversation to try to establish weather they are talking about the picture in present or past tense. My (unproven?) theory here is that the patients mind / subconsious may live in the past when times were better, after all who really wants to dwell on becoming old & infirm?
You may find that the patient tends to respond to the ‘is this you in this picture?’ question more to certain pictures than others & some not at all. Referring to a comment in one of the help guides, it stated that it is important not to startle the patient as this could lead to defensive / aggressive behaviour. I’m trying to imagine what it is like to be the patient as I write this. I’m thinking that maybe you could think of the patients wondering mind as a kind of day dreaming. By identifying & relating to pictures as a way to help avoid startling the patient they may be easier to care for.
Another (unproven?) idea when talking to patients & trying to get them engaged in activities such as getting dressed & eating etc is this. If they are happy talking about pictures from certain times in their lives they might be happy day dreaming / living in the past. Do you really need to bring their mind back to ‘now’ & reality of their current life to have them give help getting dressed & eating?
Maybe they’ve described a certain place they liked to eat at. Try using this place in conversation to help get them to walk to the care homes eating area. If they describe a breeze on their face open a window or turn on a fan. I think these are examples of subconscious triggers that can aid both the care of the patient & current well being.
I guess it will take the right kind of care worker to take the time to try to engage the patient to this extra level but if, in the long run, it enables all the care workers job of interacting with the patient to be both more productive & less stressful for all involved the surely it must be worth it! Try to imagine what’s it like having the same mind as the patient & not just the patients physical condition.
Here are those guideline links I mentioned: