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Thursday, April 25, 2013

The interesting alzheimers and dementia patients

Alzheimer's and dementia patients can be quite interesting, as you well know if you've ever met one.  They tend to gradually lose their short term memory, yet my experience is that they tend to hold on to their long term memory, something many people seem to not know, or forget.

The personality the develop is, in my opinion, their basic personality: phlegmatic (laid back and easy going), melancholy (neat, organized and whiny), choleric (bossy and meticulous), or sanguine (loud, outgoing, and talkative).  One of those personalities will shine. 

I find that no matter what personality the patient has, the way to get to that person you have to ask them about their past:
  • What did you do for a living?
  • Where did you live?
  • Do you have kids?
  • How many kids do you have?
  • What do your kids do?
  • Did you like to cook? If so, what were you best at?
  • Did you draw? Did you have a hobby? What was it?
  • Do you read the Bible? If so, what's your favorite story?
I find that these patients will sit and talk to you about their past, and sometimes they go on and on.  Even in the later stages of the disease, I find that they remember their past quite well. 

Surely you will have to reintroduce yourself with every visit, and the patient may shake your hand, or touch your shoulder, as though this is your first encounter.  Yet form your previous visits, by enquiring about their past, you can have a little more insight as to how to communicate with this patient. You know who they are, even though they probably don't know who you are.  And, many times, they DO remember you too, because you have made an impact on their long term memory too.

And I write this not having studied dementia and Alzheimers. I did not need to read a study to learn this. I say this as a person who has directly worked with many of them during the course of my many years as a respiratory therapist. 

You'd be amazed at what you can learn from a person with no short term memory.  You should try it sometime. 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I liked this post, thanks! I've been a care aide in the past, and the better I got at getting these sort of informational tidbits out of them, the easier things would go. Not just for me, but for their own stress level. Many of them just need their current moments made happy or positive. The more I worked with them, the 'richer' I found them to be! I hope as an RRT, I will end up in a job where I'll still often come across these patients.