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Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia

04/09/2010

Question:

Why is it important for healthcare staff to continue engaging people with dementia in conversations and activities even though they may quickly forget these events ever took place?

Answer:

Individuals that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or any dementia can still live a vibrant quality-filled life. Yes, their memory and thinking will progressively be more impaired and they may tend to live more in the moment or in the long ago past, but they are still vital, valued, and productive members of our society.

Keeping the person mentally stimulated encourages the brain to keep working, in spite of it's progressive limitations from the dementia condition. The individual often gains great pleasure from the activities or conversations they engage in and their lives are enriched for the moment in a meaningful way, even if they forget about it later.

Over the years, I've been amazed as to what persons with dementia can still do or the lucid & clear thoughts or humorous comments they might make out of the blue. A unique person is still in there, with all their own individual qualities including personality traits, likes,and dislikes. That's why it is so important for health care staff to know about the persons they care for. They should ask family & friends to tell them about the person's history, jobs, family life, hobbies, favorite foods, and more, including any funny stories that may be enjoyable to share with the patient. When staff take the time to engage in meaningful and knowledgeable conversation with the patient they often find the person is calmer, more relaxed and easier to care for, because the person with dementia senses that staff care about them and know something about them.

Professionally, I work hard at helping healthcare staff and families look at what persons with dementia can still do and try to maximize their potentials, for as long as possible, and not focus so much on what they can't do. Keeping the brain and body stimulated improves mood and physical activities can promote improved body functions, which in turn may reduce occurrence of illnesses that develop from inactivity. We don't yet have cures for dementing conditions like Alzheimer's Disease or Lewy Body Dementia or Vascular Dementia, but we can strive to serve our patients with individualized care and maintain their dignity & uniqueness until the end.

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Rebecca A Davis, RN, LISW Rebecca A Davis, RN, LISW
Clinical Research Nurse of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University