Ways to Connect with Seniors Suffering from Alzheimer’s
It can be overwhelming to witness older loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease lose their cognitive function, especially when they start losing their ability to communicate. One way to alleviate the devastation that this debilitating disease brings is by helping your senior connect with their past. Dr. Glenn E. Smith, a neuropsychologist at the Mayo Clinic, says, “Caregivers become the memory for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. By gathering memories, you can bring important events and experiences from your loved one’s past into the present. You’re the link to his or her life history.”
The American Association of Retired Persons or AARP stresses the importance of creating meaningful activities with seniors who have Alzheimer’s. Despite their diminishing memory, there are several ways you can help your elderly loved ones rekindle recollections from their past. Here are some of them:
Show Them Old Pictures and Memorabilia
Bring your senior loved ones back in time and help them to remember treasured moments by showing them old photos, letters and cards, or heirlooms. Encourage them to talk about the specific event or occasion that the item reminds them of.
Browse Through Old Magazines and Newspapers
Visit your local library and search the archives of old magazines and newspapers from the time when your senior loved one was young. Show them the articles, even the print ads, to trigger their memories of what were popular or the things they used to purchase during their time.
Visit Their Hometown
Although traveling with seniors may be quite a challenge, this may not only help them recall fond memories but also give you and your older loved one shared a wonderful bonding experience. According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada, visiting a familiar setting such as their hometown can greatly help your senior remember beautiful old memories.
Listen to Music
Play music from the time when your senior was young. Look for familiar songs, such as Christmas carols, hymns, and love songs. Encourage them to sing along with the music and ask them how those songs make them feel and if they remember particular memories from those songs. You might also want to ask them if they remember who performed the songs and if they had the chance to watch them perform live.
Use Scent to Trigger Memories
Find items that possess strong scents that will link to your senior’s younger years. These may be soaps, colognes, perfumes, or even cleaning products that your elderly loved one once used. You can also look for seasonal scents such as pine or gingerbread. Bring these items to your senior and let them smell these. Ask them to share with you any memories these scents trigger.
As you attempt to help your senior loved one bring back memories from their past, acknowledge that this will not be a simple task. Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can be unwilling to cooperate and this could become a frustrating activity for both of you. It is important to be patient during this process. The Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada recommends, “Be careful to not put your loved one on the spot when prompting for stories. Don’t ask, ‘do you remember’ type questions, or anything that sounds like quizzing. Ask open-ended questions to encourage sharing. Sometimes just admiring or describing what you see in the photos will prompt a recollection or story.”