What if there was a way to help your loved one, or yourself, suffering from the onset of any form of dementia to “cheat” this dreaded disease for as long as possible? I have great news! You can. There are several “tricks” that I did when I became my mother-in-laws primary caregiver. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and I set about making life as normal as possible for as long as I could. The results were astounding! So much so that her neurologist believed he had wrongfully diagnosed her…which he had not. Over the course of the time in which I cared for her, she was able to recover about eighteen month’s ability back. I will share just one of those tips here with you today. To find more tips and to read about our journey, order “Blue, Baseball, Virginia—The Journey of an Alzheimer’s Patient & Caregiver—A Journey of Humor, Help, & Hope!”
As Alzheimer’s progresses the patient’s ability to recall names with faces declines sharply. Sadly, it happens much like air seeping out of a balloon, it happens gradually until you suddenly realize that ability is no longer available. I began using this technique with my mother-in-law, Granny, the results were amazing! Here is the advice that I give the audiences when I speak on being a caregiver… “If it doesn’t hurt…it just might help!” Try this and then shoot me an email to let me know if you, too, can see a drastic difference.
One of the problems many older people have, not just those with dementia, is that they sometimes rarely see family members. Granny knew exactly what her grandchildren looked like five to ten years ago because that had been stored in her long-term memory banks. Since the part of her brain that stored short-term memories was deteriorating, those memories just could not be stored and recalled. Therefore, I devised a “cheat” for her brain.
First, I rounded up recent pictures of all seven grandchildren. I tried to make sure it was a picture with both her and her grandchild. I purchased a cheap photo album and a pack of labels from the store. I placed the older picture, the version she most remembered on the left hand side of the photo album. Then I placed the newer picture on the right hand side. I took the labels and clearly labeled their names by placing it on the outside of the protective sheet. This insured I did not damage any photographs. (Another wonderful tip I discuss in the book is that using a Sharpie works better than an ink pen. Their brains process the “thicker” words better for some reason.)
As she sat and looked at the pictures, she could compare the “grandchild on the left with the grandchild on the right.” This worked wonders for her ability to recognize the children as they came in to see her. This was a task she had clearly struggled with before.
Another trick you can use is to take a dry-erase marker and label all the pictures hanging on the wall or sitting around the house. You can write directly on the glass without damaging the photograph nor the frame. This is easily wiped off later. Because dementia patients tend to “read” signs continuously, you are feeding their brains with pertinent information. Her neurologist concluded that her brain actually moved this information into a part of her brain that was able to store a long-term memory! Remember, “If it doesn’t hurt…it just might help!” Why not give it a try?
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