Connecting with Seniors Who Have Alzheimer’s—Even in the Latest Stages of the Disease

Alzheimer's and Dementia, Senior Care, Senior Living Leave a comment , ,

Connecting with Seniors Who Have Alzheimer’s—Even in the Latest Stages of the Disease

Choice Connections of VAThere are four activities that can typically reach persons at all stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Read more about each:

Being Visited by a Child

It’s a well-known fact that children can reach people with dementia at a deep emotional level that adults often cannot. Faces may remain blank when an adult enters the room, but when a child walks in, those stares may turn to smiles, even for patients in the latest stage of the disease.

Children can often interact successfully with people who have Alzheimer’s. To get some specific ideas of how they can do that, check out the Alzheimer’s Association website, which has a list of 101 things a child can do with an Alzheimer’s patient.

Arranging for a beloved grandchild or other young child to visit may be just what the doctor ordered. When doing so, of course, be sure the child wants to visit and feels comfortable doing so.

Being Visited by a Pet

Much like children, animals can often touch those with dementia more deeply than humans can. “One of the joys of persons with dementia that seems to remain intact, untouched over time, is the joy created by a visit from a pet,” says Susan Gilster, executive director of the award-winning Alois Alzheimer Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The key, she says, is that animals don’t judge. They love the individual with dementia unconditionally and express their love actively to the delight of the patient. “Soft fur, a wet tongue across the face, even a bark brings a smile to all the faces,” she adds.

Listening to or Performing Music

Music also has the power to reach Alzheimer’s patients on a profound level. It can have positive effects on their health and social functioning. Often times late-stage Alzheimer’s patients can sing songs, including the lyrics, long after they’ve lost the ability to recognize loved ones, dress themselves or remember what happened five minutes earlier. In fact, music may be the only thing to which some late stage patients will respond.

“It is remarkable how music can penetrate the mind of an otherwise severely impaired person with Alzheimers,” says Gregg Warshaw, M.D., former president of the American Geriatric Society. He says he’s seen patients who can barely walk get up and start dancing to music. “Others start clapping and singing,” he adds.

Observing or Creating Artwork

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the ability to express and connect through art in a safe and social environment can help bridge communication gaps and increase self-esteem for persons with dementia. The creative process is as important and meaningful as the art work itself.

You can arrange various types of art projects for your loved one. Common activities include painting with water colors, coloring with crayons, making scrapbooks or molding objects out of clay. If your loved one is able to go out, a trip to an art museum could also be very beneficial. Just looking at art, much like listening to music, has been shown to calm people with dementia.

So there you have it — children, pets, music and art. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s experiment with these and you may find one or more will be richly rewarding for both your loved one and for you.

Image courtesy of Ambro at

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