Emotional Health in Alzheimer’s Patients

News Note

Rather than trying to challenge an Alzheimer’s patient’s delusions, caregivers should empathize and connect emotionally, according to Joanne Koenig Coste, author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s (Houghton Mifflin, 2003). This is especially relevant because patients have strong emotional memories, even after they’ve lost the ability to remember current events.

Following are some tips for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, as reported in a recent issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

The Hidden Patient

Polarity Therapy for Dementia Caregivers

Porter Shimer, in his book New Hope for People with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers, gives a tongue-in-cheek view of the dementia caregiver’s role with this proposed ad — “Wanted: Someone to spend an average of 100 hours a week to oversee the physical and emotional well-being of another human being. Expect frustration, depression, rejection, occasional abuse, and chronic fatigue. No benefits, no vacation, no room for advancement, and no salary.

Dementia Care

Reducing Behavioral Symptoms with Therapeutic Touch

Chances are you either have a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or you know someone who does. The devastating impact of Alzheimer’s and related dementias on our American society is steadily growing. The Alzheimer’s Association puts the number of people currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (the most prevalent dementia) at 4.5 million, double that in 1980. As life expectancy increases, so does the rate of those afflicted — 1 of 10 by age 65, 1 of 2 by age 85.

Dance Movement Therapy

Dancing Your Way to Health

Renee was 4 1/2 years old when she walked stiff-legged into my office. She was born with arthrogryposis, a congenital disease where the elbows and knees can’t bend, and the feet are often malformed. Renee had a milder form of arthrogryposis so that her arms moved, but her knees wouldn’t bend. People with arthrogryposis have difficulty with simple tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They have difficulty with walking because of foot placement. Not being able to bend the knee makes climbing, jumping or running difficult. But Renee loved to dance.

Reaching Out

Massage Emerges as a Lifeline to Dementia Patients

A Crabbèd Old Woman

The body it crumbles. Grace and vigor depart.
There now is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass, a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the pain, and I remember the joys,
And I’m living and loving all over again.
And I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing will last.
So open your eyes, nurse, open and see
Not a crabbèd old woman,
Look closer: See me.

Growing Old with Massage

In Facility Care

While the changes accompanying aging can be unsettling and frightening to the elderly, it’s comforting to know that something as simple as frequent touch can stimulate maturing minds and bodies, ensuring that the concomitant traumas of our later years are minimized. As a bodyworker, bringing touch to this facility-bound population can bring both heartache and joy, but the value of your work cannot be denied.