We recently celebrated the great
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His speeches were inspiring and powerful and brought attention to matters than needed change.
One of his speeches included the words "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." I think this can be applied to those with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, who in their own way experience a form of oppression.
When viewing the definition of oppression, one definition says "a feeling of being weighed down in mind or body". One might say that Alzheimer's disease itself is an oppressor, as it weighs the person down in the form of mixed up words, lost memories, and declining abilities.
Dr. King said that those who are oppressed need to demand freedom. In this case, the 'oppressed' 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.
But a different type of 'freedom' can be had for those with dementia. Caregivers, both professional and at-home, can become their advocates and combat oppression. They can also make changes that will help the person with dementia keep what freedoms they can, within the limits of the disease.
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 (i.e. point to the dinner table as you say "It is time for lunch")
- 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 much more practical and ideal for the person with dementia than an invite to a party or event. Check with the caregiver on the best time of day to visit.
- Daily Life
- Establish a daily routine
- Incorporate activity into the day - washing dishes, taking a walk, singing a song. Any moment of 'doing something' is an activity.
- Praise the person and give words of encouragement.
- Sign up to get more helpful daily living tips for those with dementia
And to help with advocating against the stigma of those oppressed by Alzheimer's disease and related dementia, please SHARE using the buttons below, on the right.
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 exactly right 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.
Monica, Occupational Therapist and MindStart Owner