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Care for Alzheimer's patients

Gene Johnston 01/26/2011 @ 10:34am On the scene at the 2012 Cattle Convention, Nashville

One of the hardest things you'll be asked to go through in life is coping with the deteriorating health of a loved one. Alzheimer’s disease is a classic example. Brain deterioration robs victims of big chunks of their memory, often leaving them confused and disoriented.

David Troxel, a senior care advocate and author, has made improving Alzheimer’s care his life’s passion. He has written several books for caregivers. His recent book, coauthored by Virginia Bell, is called A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach To Alzheimer’s Care.

It outlines a relatively new approach that can be practiced by caregivers. The goal is to treat Alzheimer’s sufferers in a more positive way – the way good friends care for each other, rather than ignoring them or treating them like a child.

He says, “Best friends know each other’s personality and history. They do things together, they communicate openly. They build self-esteem, they laugh together often, and they think of each other as equals. For an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it means you become less task-oriented and more person-centered.”

Some caregivers have what Troxel calls “the knack” for working with Alzheimer’s sufferers. They interact with ease by employing clever strategies. “Not everyone has it. And if that is the case, maybe you shouldn’t be a primary caregiver,” he says.

He offers these examples of how you can use the knack for interacting with an Alzheimer’s patient at a senior care facility, or at home.

• The Alzheimer’s patient says, “That President Eisenhower is sure doing a good job.” You could ridicule and say, “He’s not the president.” Or if you have the knack, you say, “Yes, he is a good man!” What harm have you done?

• The patient says, “You’re late.” Your instinctual reaction is to say, “No, I’m right on time.” But if you have the knack, you say, “Yes, Mom, I’m sorry I’m late.” Sometimes, you let them be right and compliment them. “It elevates them,” Troxel says.

•The patient says, “Where’s my mom?” You want to say, “Your mom has been gone for 30 years.” But if you have the knack, you say, “Tell me something about your mom.”

Take Note Of Personal Stories

Troxel suggests that Alzheimer’s caregivers go out of their way to know things about the people in their care. The staff at a senior care facility might develop bullet cards that say something like “10 fun things to know about Bob.” The whole staff could have access to them and use them to interact in a best-friends approach.

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