How to engage a loved one with Alzheimer’s this Thanksgiving

For families dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia, holiday gatherings can be anything but restful. Caregivers and family members often wonder how to approach conversation, particularly when the loved one may not recognize their condition.

Do you talk with the loved one about their past? About the present? How do you know when it might be time for alternative care options, and how do you start that conversation?

One doctor shared his most powerful and effective tool for memory therapy in a recent Forbes article. The tool? Asking questions.

“Much of my practice is about prompting the patient and family to arrive at a coherent and vivid story of how they’re living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Jason Karlawish of the University of Pennsylvania. “Why is this important? Because short of a cure, that is what each of the five million or so patients with the disease will have to do.”

This Thanksgiving, take time to ask your loved one about their life. These questions should be general and open ended, not directed toward specific information. Asking for details they can’t remember could frustrate the loved one and cause more harm than good.

Though some things about your loved one have undeniably changed, they're still the same person. Make an effort to see them as a complete person rather than through the fragments of their disease. Prepare to listen and be patient because, most often, they’re just like us: they just want to know you care.

To read Dr. Karlawish’s full article, click here. If you feel this conversation may require further help from trained Alzheimer’s and dementia specialists, read here to see how Buckner Retirement Services can help you take the next steps in memory care.

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