Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Interact With an Alzheimer's Patient

I have some hesitancy to take my husband places where people will not know how to respond to him and where he will not know how to respond to them. He doesn't remember new people very well. He seems to be able to be with a crowd for about two and a half hours now--this was true on Christmas day even though it was his daughter's home, but there were people there he didn't know too well. 

Usually after church hubby just sits while I go around and talk to people and he can become quite impatient after about two and a half hours of our afternoon church service and the socializing afterwards. 

At church I often talk with a lady who has Alzheimer's because I have been trained. One Sunday I even kept her from leaving church without her family. I held her hand as she was leaving and asked her where she was going. I am going to walk home, she said,  and she was indeed determined to get out of there. I walked out with her and as we left the church, she had difficulty with the steps and my holding her hand securely kept her from a serious fall as she slipped to the ground on the few steps. Soon her family were with her. 

Yesterday after the worship service at our church, I mentioned to a gentleman new to the church that my husband may not remember who he is, but will be warmed very much by interaction. I looked around after a while and sure enough two gentlemen were interacting with my husband. Hubby can be quite funny and a good conversationalist. The guys were enjoying talking. We were able to stay longer because two men knew how to talk with my husband who remained in his spot at the church. 

Yesterday the plan was to take Kenny and hubby home after our afternoon church service and then I would go to a 6 PM birthday party at a restaurant last night by myself. However Kenny was ill* and didn't come to church with us. I was hubby's pill popping buddy and said the same things Kenny said. I managed Kenny's job to shave and shower hubby. I am so grateful for Kenny's routines with my husband. 

Back to my hesitancy to take my husband to a social setting--two and a half hours is about all he can manage--an average movie showing. He no longer goes to Toastmasters with me--three or four hours at night is too long for him.  Hubby said that yes he would go to this birthday party with me after church and we filled time by going to Target, and waiting in the Target parking lot while I assembled the birthday gift. Hubby was happy in our car with the soft drink I bought him (he usually doesn't get one at home) and our simple conversation. 

About 5:45 we got to the restaurant parking lot for the birthday party, but hubby wouldn't go into the restaurant. He had changed his mind and told me to go in there and he would stay in the car--his comfort zone. I am so grateful, by the way, that hubby is comfortable in our new car, but I was not about to leave him in the car for two or three hours even though it was about the 70's outside and I could have the engine turned off. I knew he would be mad if I left him that long and even with a note wouldn't remember where I was. I took my gift into the restaurant and gave it to the lady whose birthday it was and told her my husband was in our car and that I wasn't able to stay because he wouldn't get out of the car. 

Fortunately a lawyer at the party came gallantly to my rescue. He came back to the car with me, reminded my husband they had met and smoothly got hubby into the restaurant. Men have a way with other men, but wives just have that "nag" factor, I believe. Kenny can convince my husband to do something much easier than I can also. 

In the restaurant finally we were seated and as usual he was happy for me to order his dinner. He sat at the end of a long table and could observe everything going on. 

The extrovert that I am, I was able to engage in conversation at the long table and was even asked to rap at one point. I "spit" a rap HERE in the restaurant. But hubby sat quietly and I would often hold his hand or say something to him. The restaurant was noisy and he really couldn't follow conversations but he enjoyed his dinner. Things went well for about two and a half hoursThen hubby was ready to go home to what is comfortable for him. I was fortunate to be able to enjoy that much time. 

As the main caregiver, I often get the wrath of my husband and this is normal for us lovegivers. Of course I forgive him, because I understand the disease and am committed to be there for him all his days. I forgive the impatience and the swearing because his social filters in his brain are gone. 

What is communication like at home? I am learning. When I forget to stand right in front of him, get eye contact, and say one idea at a time, he will often say to me:

You are not making sense. 

I am the multitasker who needs to repent, slow down, and be there for my hubby as he is going downhill.  With the LORD's help I want to love him and he does show that he loves me. Scripture says,

She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:12

* Pray for Kenny, folks, as he has a low resistance to whatever is going around.


  1. I would imagine it is hard to talk with someone suffering from dementia. My MIL had dementia from Parkinson's disease and the few times I visited her, I would always try to talk wto her with where she might be at the time (often in the past) rather than try to correct her if she said something that wasn't relevant to the present time (like her husband tended to do). My husband would go and visit her and ask questions about her growing up or young adult days, things she had no trouble remembering.

    I think it is neat you were able to make it to the party for a bit and that your hubby was drawn to go into it by people willing to work with him to do so.


    1. Betty,

      I love how you are new to my blog and write on here faithfully. Thanks!

      Yes, that is the wise way to talk with AD loved ones when they are really in the past. My husband isn't there yet, but is still fairly present with his day to day conversation. Really he is in the moment and doesn't remember earlier in the day.


  2. Thanks for the info. These will really help everyone who read this understand that AD makes it difficult for seniors to convey the whatever physical changes or discomfort they feel. People around older adults, especially those with Alzheimer's disease, should be more sensitive to the changes and needs of these seniors.

    Alzheimer Clinic

    1. Thank you, Dr. Tai. I am glad that my blog can be used by others to be more sensitive to AD patients. There are a links on Sept. 7th of this blog to a newspaper article I wrote on communication for Grandparent's Day.

    2. I think all of us carers are great at talking to Alzheimers patients. I've been very good at it since my grandfather developed dementia twenty years ago but now with Mum, I'm an expert. Louise

    3. Good for you, Louise. I keep learning.