Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds [SOUND] The first thing that we have to do is understand the person with dementia, or Alzheimer’s. Understand that they lose their short-term memory. How do we know they lose their short-term memory? What do they do?
Skip to 0 minutes and 24 seconds Repeat the same question over and over, yeah, and over again. And what if you ask them what did you have for lunch today? Their reaction was, I didn’t get anything to eat, I’m kind of hungry. Even though you saw them eating five minutes ago. What if you talk to them about a family member who came to see them last night? Didn’t you have a lovely visit?
Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds Their reaction: I haven’t seen my family in months. They don’t ever come see me. Do you know that you can visit them? Step outside the door, walk back in five minutes later and they’re like, where have you been? Short-term memory loss. They don’t know what happened this morning. They don’t know what happened this weekend. They don’t even remember what happened ten years ago. But the positive side of this disease is they retain memories from long ago. They retain their childhood memories. They know the name of their grandma. They know that their grandma was a good cook. They know that their brother walked them to school. They know the name of their brother.
Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds They know a horse that they rode when they were younger. They know the name of that horse. They know what color that horse was. Whose responsibility is it to chat about the memories that they still have? Instead of, what did you have for lunch today, whose responsibility is it to chat about the memories that they still have?
Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds Our responsibility. And to trigger memories, it’s not what you say, right? It’s not what you say. So often we want to come in with words, tell me about your brother, tell me about your home. Those are words. When you start talking, all they hear is wah-wah-wah-wah-wah.
Skip to 2 minutes and 20 seconds When you’re with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the closest thing to their memory is not what we’re saying. The closest thing to their memory is what they see, what they touch, what they feel, what they smell. So when you bring in a picture of their horse, their memory is triggered because they see their horse.
Skip to 2 minutes and 39 seconds When you bring in a picture of their brother that walked them to school, their memory is triggered because of seeing their brother’s face. And not when he’s 80, but when he was 16. Those long-term memories from their childhood, that’s what they remember. So how can you put something in their hands that triggers their memory?
Why is understanding the person so important?
As you watch and reflect upon this video, take a moment to think about the role that short-term memory plays in our lives.
From either this video or your own experiences, use the comments section below to give an example of short-term memory loss and how it would affect your interaction with a person suffering from Alzheimer’s. What strategies could you have used to create joy in that interaction?
© Jolene Brackey