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May is Older Adults Month, it’s time to talk about Alzheimer’s Disease

May is Older Adults Month and it’s inevitable to talk about Alzheimer’s. The statistics shared by the Alzheimer’s Association state that 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

Older people forget someone’s name or lose things from time to time. This type of forgetting is normal. But, forgetting how to get home, getting confused in places that a person knows well, or asking questions repeatedly can be signs of a more serious problem. The person could have Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease of the brain. Causes many neurons in the brain to die. This affects a person’s ability to remember things, think clearly and use good judgment. Doctors do not know what causes the disease. What they do know is that most of the time it starts after 60 years. Almost half of people who are 85 or older may have Alzheimer’s.

Memory Books have proven to be an effective resource for Staff and families to facilitate conversations. Jennifer Brush, from Brush Development shares Tips for Creating Memory Books to Enable Conversation with a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia-related disorders.

For people living with dementia, reading is a preserved skill. Therefore, visual aids that include written information can be used as memory supports. Memory Books can improve quality of life by:

  • Helping people remember important information
  • Making conversation easier
  • Reducing responsive (challenging) behaviors, such as exit seeking and repetitive questioning
  • Providing reassurance and comfort

A Memory Book is a simple story of the person’s life. The book can be made simply with a three-ring binder with non-glare page protectors. Each page contains a single photograph or memento and one sentence describing it. Sentences are written in the first person and include the names of people and places shown in the photo.  The use of memory books with individuals living with dementia originated with Dr. Michelle Bourgeois.

Memory Books can be used to facilitate conversations during family visits. They are also a great way for care partners to get to know new individuals living in the care community.

Here are some simple guidelines to help you use a memory book in conversation.

  • Ask the person to have a conversation with you.
  • Guide the conversation by commenting on the photos and information in the memory book.
  • Redirect the conversation back to the topic when the person begins to ramble.
  • Reassure the person and help when he or she gets stuck and can’t find a word.
  • Smile and act interested in whatever the person is talking about even if you aren’t sure what is being said.
  • Thank the person for talking with you.

There are a few common pitfalls you will want to avoid when using a memory book in conversation.

  • Do not quiz the person or ask a lot of specific questions.
  • Do not correct or contradict something that was stated as fact even if you know it’s wrong. 1

Residential Plaza at Blue Lagoon has a Memory Care Program that provide an affordable 24-hour specialized care, based on the Montessori for Aging and Dementia Program, in a home-like environment for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related disorders. “Memory Books are a great resource for family members and Staff to facilitate conversations with the residents and keep them engaged”, said Maria Fernandez, Residential Plaza’s Memory Care Program Director, “we are constantly looking for resources to support the Staff and families to keep relationships thriving”.

1 Jennifer A. Brush, M.A., CCC/SLP has been working for over 20 years to change the face of dementia care in hospitals, assisted living communities, nursing homes and home care. Prior to establishing her own practice, Jennifer served for many years as the Executive Director of IDEAS Institute, a nonprofit organization that improves the lives of older adults through the conduct of applied research. For more information on Jennifer Brush work please visit https://brushdevelopment.com/