ElderLaw News-The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News
ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Communicating with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s is difficult.

The disease can render once vibrant, active individuals unable to recognize family members, confused about their surroundings, and grasping for words and memories that are no longer there. This can be extremely unsettling for both the individual and the family. Well-meaning family members might try to orient the individual to the present, correcting him/her about what year it is, what he/she ate for breakfast, or any other aspect of reality that escapes him/her, with the unintended effect of upsetting the individual. If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it may be necessary to change your approach to interacting with him/her in order for the individual to feel more secure.

Communicating with people who have Alzheimer’s requires patience and understanding. Pay attention to what they are saying, and try not to interrupt, argue, or correct them. Rather than trying to orient persons with Alzheimer’s to the present, it may be helpful to go along with their version of reality, so long as it does not place them in danger. If they believe Ronald Reagan is still the President, speaking with them as if it were true may help them feel more secure and in control. Correcting them by telling them who the President currently is may have the opposite effect, leading to confusion, feelings of loss of control, and agitation.

Simply paying attention and being agreeable are not enough, however. Consider your body language and tone of voice. If it’s clear from these cues that you are losing patience, you may see that person begin to retreat, shut down, or become angry. This could also happen if you’ve given the individual too many options, asked open-ended questions, or otherwise confused them. Whenever possible, try to offer solutions to problems, provide choices instead of open-ended questions, and be as clear as you can.

Some memory care facilities encourage their residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia to reminisce, setting up activity stations to help them reignite old passions or recall details about their past. One such facility has a station set up with wedding memorabilia – photographs, a wedding dress, a bouquet of silk flowers — to encourage residents to recall and talk about their wedding day. Their staff has also put together themed boxes of items to remind residents of hobbies they enjoy, like gardening and cooking. Being able to put their hands on related items (gardening gloves, a rolling pin, cookie cutters) gives residents a tangible way to jog their memories and role play to help regain confidence. Another facility has created a miniature town for its residents, complete with a general store for residents to shop in and a theater for watching classic movies. Giving individuals with Alzheimer’s the ability to participate in activities, shop on their own, and go to the movies goes a long way toward helping them feel secure and independent.

For more information on how to communicate with a person with Alzheimer’s, visit https://www.alz.org/care/dementia-communication-tips.asp.


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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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