If Alzheimer’s creeps into your life, it has a huge impact on mutual relationships. Relationships change between marriage partners, between parents and their adult children and between other family members. Alzheimer and love; how do you keep the love alive for the other person when memories fade away?
It is work
It remains important to (show) love and to invest in maintaining a bond with someone who is demented. Gary Chapman has written a book “Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade” . According to Chapman, we can love people even when they cannot love us anymore.
In his book, professionals and care givers tell what they experience and have learned and how they know they are supported by the love of others. The book also contains forty activities that people with dementia enjoy and that help in communication and to keep the love alive.
Alzheimer and love
The book also contains forty activities that people with dementia enjoy and that help in communication and to keep the love alive. Here is a short summary.
If you want to give a present, make sure it is a personal gift; give him / her something he / she really likes; chocolate, an ice cream, a cookie or something that shows you really know him/her like an iPod with music from the teenage years and young adult years.
- Stay positive
Focus on positive words; answer each repeated question as if you were hearing it for the first time. Talk to him/her, even if (s)he cannot say anything back – about his life (childhood, youth, marriage, own children, grandchildren, work and hobbies). Tell him/her that you are proud of everything (s)he has achieved in life.
Include your loved one in the conversation, regardless of what (s)he says and regardless of how it is said. Help him or her with external care (makeup, shaving, combing hair, selecting clothes).
Give a hand and go for a walk. Give a hug (and a kiss, if appropriate). Sit close to your loved one and hold him/her if she/he is angry, scared or restless.
- Be together
Read aloud or be read aloud, if that is still possible. View photo albums or videos from the past. Talk about important events from the past.
But back to Valentine’s day. How do you celebrate Alzheimer and love? Last year I attended a very special dinner in a retirement home. It was for couples who have to live separately. Ten couples, each with one of them staying in the closed section, were allowed to date.
Ava (78) looks deep into the eyes of her Peter (79). “He is satisfied,” she says. “I can see it in his eyes.” The two enjoyed the zucchini soup, the stew and the ice cream. Together they sit at a beautifully set table, including a candle and a rose. “Taking care of him at home was no longer possible, says Ava. “It was a hard decision to leave him here while I continued to live at home. But I come here everyday to be with him. Then I always hold him tight and tell what happened. Peter has been living in a home for 3 years now. “We sometimes watch TV together or we read the newspaper. He can’t say anything back, but I know he enjoys our moments together, “the woman says.
For me a clear proof that Alzheimer and love go together. Happy Valentine’s day!