Archive - May 13, 2013


Alzheimer's and nutrition

This book and the accompanying television program are sure to be controversial. However, the author is spot on in his assertion that the eventual solution to Alzheimer's disease is likely not going to be a pill, but a drastic change in lifestyle and diet. Oh, how we hate to hear that. 

As Alzheimer's disease becomes more prevalent, new books about it are coming out on the disease almost every week. So do new potential quack cures which promise to cure the disease. It is tough to sort it all out. 

A couple of points I would emphasize:

•Once a person has the disease, it is cruel to test them assuming that you "use it or lose it." The memory for names is gone and simply cannot return.However, emotional memory remains. Figure out ways (music, pictures, items) to trigger that emotional memory, but never expect a name spoken out loud to trigger anything but confusion. 

•Examine the assumptions behind the statement, "I would visit more, but she doesn't know who I am." So, who is the visit for? Is it for us, the visitors, to be recognized? I think we can eventually learn to get along without the ego satisfaction of immediate recognition and just sit with the person. As you sit there, allow for moments of recognition that are not based in language. Some days they'll come, other days they won't. 

•When the advanced Alzheimer's patient greets you with mumbo jumbo, answer as if you are certain you know what they said. Listen for tone only, not for actual words. Perhaps the lady's tone suggests that she would like to get you some coffee. Take a guess and wave her off with a, "Oh, I just had pie and coffee up town." Exaggerate the tone of, "oh, don't bother, I am fine." The words will not be recognized, but the tone will calm the person. Then move on to other topics, talking normally. When the response is mumbo jumbo, imagine what it might mean and answer appropriately and with utter conviction that you are carrying on a conversation. For you are. The give and take of a conversation is what the Alzheimer's sufferer longs for, whether or not the words make any sense. Do not raise your voice as if you are talking to a child. Do not enunciate words in an exaggerated manner. It does not do any good. What matters is your tone and your posture. Both should reflect a relaxed conversation with an old friend. If you can pull that off, what you will have is a relaxed conversation with an old friend, one that will make you feel better as well. 

It is difficult for family members of Alzheimer's victims to pull this off, as they are understandably attached to the person who was, the person who recognized them and hugged them when they arrived. That is why non-family members are so important. We can understand the Alzheimer's patient as they are in the present.