HBO’s The Alzheimer’s Project: Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?

May 19, 2009

Filed under: Alzheimer's,Caregiver Issues — Tags: , , — Alexis @ 3:51 PM

This weekend I watched the film on grandchildren caring for grandparents with Alzheimer’s.  I was floored by the patience and persistence these kids displayed.

One theme that the film highlighted with “staying in the moment.”  This is something we all did as kids (remember focusing on a ladybug crawling up a blade of grass for minutes at a time, oblivious to anything else in the world?), but we lose as we mature.  Turns out we end up back there towards the end of life.

Spending time with an Alzheimer’s patient sometimes means playing cards or other games, discussing what they see out the window at that moment – and not discussing what happened this morning or what you will be doing tonight.

This also touches on the theme of “fiblets” – the notion that you cannot change the reality of an Alzheimer’s patient, so you go with their reality instead.  They are in their moment – go and join them there.  My favorite Alzheimer’s coach, Beverly Moore, tells this story:  It is about 3 p.m., and a woman she is working with is convinced that Johnny should be coming off the school bus any minute.  There is no way to convince her that she is 85 and her little boy is a 60 year-old accomplished engineer.  Instead, Beverly agrees and steers her into the kitchen to make tea while they “wait for the bus.”

It is a shift in the way we are used to interacting with people, but if you can force yourself to return to your childhood habits and “stay in the moment” you can turn what could have been a frustrating experience into some joyful time spent with your loved one. 

HBO’s The Alzheimer’s Project: Caregivers

May 18, 2009

This weekend I watched the film Caregivers (don’t you just love On Demand?).  One theme that jumped out was the isolation that caregivers suffer.  Several of the film’s stars (I think that’s a good name for them) talked about how very quietly the invitations to events and gatherings stopped.  Not only does this damage the patient, but even more so the caregiver who needs more than ever to maintain her connections to the world.

This happens with families with special needs children, as well.  They lose their friends and even family as their child grows past the infant years. 

It all comes down to lack of knowledge.  Very few, if any, of us innately know how to interact with a person with mental deficits or behavioral issues.  The good thing is, it’s not too hard to learn. 

If you have a friend, neighbor, or family member who is caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s, another form of dementia, behavioral issues, mental retardation, Turret’s Syndrome, or any other type of disability that affects the mind, please – don’t shy away from them – they need you in their life.  Just ask your friend – “I would love to spend the afternoon with you, please tell me what to expect from Vanessa, and please give me some tips on how to interact with her.”  There are also so many books and websites devoted to various special needs and highlighting skills for interacting with the special needs person.

And if you are the caregiver and you have noticed that your friends and family invite you out less frequently – call them up, explain that you understand why they have backed off, and then ask if you could describe a few tips for how to spend time with your loved one. 

All it takes is a little bit of knowledge, patience, and a willingness to try something new.