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Esther Heerema, MSW

Address Book Becomes Tool for Conversation In Dementia

By January 8, 2012

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Today's Dear Abby newspaper column contains a letter from one of her readers that I want to share with you. A woman from Kansas wrote in to Dear Abby to share that visiting her mother-in-law, who was in a nursing home with dementia, was difficult because she didn't know what to talk about with her. Maybe you've been in those shoes?

One day, this woman found her mother-in-law's address book, and decided to take it with her on her visits. She started at the beginning and asked her mother-in-law to tell her about each person listed.  Her mother-in-law was able to share engaging stories and reminisce about the person, turning their visits into a great exercise for both her head and her heart. This tradition of story-telling lasted well into the later stages of her . What an enjoyable and rich way to spend for them to spend time together.

Whether it's Alzheimer's or another kind of dementia, people with memory loss often enjoy sharing stories from the past. While coping with dementia can be a challenge, this is a great way to make the most of your time with your loved one.

See also: Letter From An Individual With Alzheimer's

7 Signs of Caregiver Overload

Comments
January 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm
(1) John says:

I like this idea – most of the names in the address book of an older person with dementia will be friends and associates from long ago. These conversations, then, become reminiscences, which are therapeutic, but also offer an insight into how to converse with a person who has a progressive form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease and many of the progressive dementias affect recent memory first, and only much later steal away memories that were formed earlier in life. The ability to think ahead and plan is another function that Alzheimer’s disease affects. Unfortunately, most of our conversations center around what is most on our minds now. The bulk of our social conversation is centered on what we have been doing recently, or what we will be doing soon, those things that the person who has Alzheimer’s has the most trouble with.

We find it much more productive to talk about things from the more distant past (reminiscence) or things that are happening now; and now means at this very moment. We provide activities that help in both of these arenas, and find that a visit is much more pleasant, much more productive, than talking about what Mom had for lunch, or what Dad is going to do tomorrow.

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