“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At the Alzheimer’s Association, diversity is an imperative part of our mission. We understand that valuing diversity and inclusiveness is critical to the success of our mission. As we celebrate the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not only are his speeches inspiring and powerful, but also brought attention to matters than needed change. One of his speeches included the words “Freedom must be demanded by the oppressed.” This can in a way be applied to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, who in their own way experience a form of oppression. Oppression, “a feeling of being weighed down in mind or body”. Alzheimer’s disease itself is an oppressor, as it weighs the person down in the form of lost memories and declining abilities. But how to demand freedom when they often cannot speak for themselves and we know that ‘freedom’ from the disease of Alzheimer’s cannot be had in the form of a cure? A different type of ‘freedom’ can be had for those with dementia. Caregivers can become their advocates and combat oppression. They can also make changes that will help the person with dementia keep what freedoms they have. Promoting a Different Type of Freedom for Patients with Alzheimer’s. Try following these principles in caring for people with dementia, to help the person live life to the fullest, despite the limitations imposed by the disease.
• Keep conversation simple
• Don’t ask the person ‘don’t you remember?’.
• Use visual cues to help the person understand.
• For outside visitors, bring a simple game, picture book, or favorite treat that can be enjoyed when conversation is difficult.
• Clear out the clutter
• At earlier stages, labels on drawers, simple lists, and simple schedules hung up can be helpful.
• Watch for over-stimulation through noise of tv and loudness in tight social spaces.
• For friends and neighbors, a short visit to the person’s house is welcomed.
• Establish a daily routine
• Incorporate activity into the day. Any moment of ‘doing something’ is an activity.
• Praise the person and give words of encouragement.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” We may never know the exact thing to do at every given moment with Alzheimer’s disease, but putting our best efforts forward can make all the difference for those living with it.