Communicating with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

by Jessica A. Hayes, Esq.

Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s is difficult. The disease can render  once vibrant, active individuals unable to recognize family members, confused about  their surroundings, and grasping for words and memories that are no longer there.  This can be extremely unsettling for both the individual and the family.  Well-meaning family members might try to orient the individual to the present, correcting him/her about what year it is, what he/she ate for breakfast, or any other aspect of reality that escapes him/her, with the unintended effect of upsetting the individual.  If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it may be necessary to change your approach to interacting with him/her in order for the individual to feel more secure.

Communicating with  people who have Alzheimer’s requires patience and understanding.  Pay attention to what they are saying, and try not to interrupt, argue, or correct them.  Rather than trying to orient persons with Alzheimer’s to the present, it may be helpful to go along with their version of reality, so long as it does not place them in danger.  If they believe Ronald Reagan is still the President, speaking with them as if it were true may help them feel more secure and in control.  Correcting them by telling them who the President currently is may have the opposite effect, leading to confusion, feelings of loss of control, and agitation.

Simply paying attention and being agreeable are not enough, however.  Consider your body language and tone of voice.  If it’s clear from these cues that you are losing patience, you may see that person begin to retreat, shut down, or become angry.  This could also happen if you’ve given the individual too many options, asked open-ended questions, or otherwise confused them.  Whenever possible, try to offer solutions to problems, provide choices instead of open-ended questions, and be as clear as you can.

Some of our local memory care facilities encourage their residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia to reminisce, setting up activity stations to help them reignite old passions or recall details about their past.  One such facility has a station set up with wedding memorabilia – photographs, a wedding dress, a bouquet of silk flowers — to encourage residents to recall and talk about their wedding day.  Their staff has also put together themed boxes of items to remind residents of hobbies they enjoy, like gardening and cooking.  Being able to put their hands on related items (gardening gloves, a rolling pin, cookie cutters) gives residents a tangible way to jog their memories and role play to help regain confidence.  Another local facility has created a miniature town for its residents, complete with a general store for residents to shop in and a theater for watching classic movies.  Giving individuals with Alzheimer’s the ability to participate in activities, shop on their own, and go to the movies goes a long way toward helping them feel secure and independent.

For more information on how to communicate with a person with Alzheimer’s, visit https://www.alz.org/care/dementia-communication-tips.asp.

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat – Marine Life on Oil Rigs

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about marine life around oil rigs?

Kit Kat:  It may surprise you, but there is some new research about this very topic, and it is very positive. In the past, environmentalists were horrified by the existence of oil rigs. The potential for spills and the actual spills themselves created nightmares for the environment. However, as the rigs have aged, and become decommissioned (no longer in active use), scientists have begin to notice some benefits. There appears to be an actual increase in the sea life that is around the rig. What is more, it is not sea life that has just changed locations, but an actual increase in different species choosing to make their home around the rig. For instance, Dr. Milton Love of UC-Santa Barbara has noted in a 2014 paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that, ‘For some of the major economic species like the rockfishes, there’s no question that there are more of them out in southern California waters because the platform is there.’ Other rigs have noted an increase in sea lions and bright orange Garibaldi around them.

Armed with this information, two young scientists have formed a company in California named Blue Latitudes. They and the company are attempting to improve the image of rigs as a place where sea life can thrive. Not that they are advocating for building of new rigs, but with hundreds of inactive rigs already in existence, they feel ‘…it’s time for us to step outside the box and think creatively about the resources we have.’ Emily Callahan, one of Blue Latitudes’ scientists feel is shortsighted to ignore the vibrant ecosystems which now exist around the old rigs.

Perhaps all can benefit in this arrangement. While some would like old oil rigs to be completely removed, others like the scientists of Blue Latitudes are advocating for partial removal where only the top of the rig is removed to a depth of 80 feet, allowing for passage of large ships. The rest of the rig can remain to become a focal point for sea life and recreational diving and fishing. The benefit to the oil companies is a tremendous cost savings, possibly in the $ 1 billion range. However, under California law, half of the savings oil companies would realize would have to go back to the state to fund conservation efforts. Some consider it a win-win proposition for both sides. Stay tuned as the areas which have old rigs decide how they will be disposed of. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/science/marine-life-thrives-in-unlikely-place-offshore-oil-rigs)

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