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Building Relationships Amid Memory Loss
Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 2:39 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

From Alzheimer's Daily News:

(Source: CNN) - On a recent late night in New Jersey, Adam Robb sat up with Dulcie Laurance, his 92-year-old grandmother, who is one of an estimated 36 million people worldwide with dementia. Robb is one of about 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S. taking care of relatives with various conditions, including dementia.

"It's 11:45 p.m., you just went to bed," Robb wrote to her. (Laurance has been deaf for 25 years and macular degeneration undermines her ability to read lips, so Robb communicates with her via written notes.) Laurance smiled and sheepishly laughed.


Impairment in the body's internal clock, ultimately disrupting a person's sleep-wake cycle, is just one of the potential symptoms of dementia. When Laurance woke up that night, she'd misinterpreted a light in the living room as a sign that it was time to get up and start her day.


Dementia is a loss of brain function and affects memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior. Alzheimer's disease is the most common and among the most severe types of dementia. Most aren't reversible.

Rethinking and adjusting relationships is one of the often overlooked parts of being a family caretaker, aging experts explain. Since no two people experience dementia in the same way, many caregivers are at a loss with how to cope with a disease that can rob the vivacity and obvious connections of loved ones they once knew.


"You have to separate what your relationship was before," said Laura Gitlin, director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging at Johns Hopkins University. "It's not merely a memory lapse - we all have those moments where we forget somebody's name or we forget where we put our keys or glasses. This is really very different," Gitlin explained. "You not only forget something, you then don't have a strategy of how to correct it."


"The best you can give for a person with dementia is recognition of the person they were and are and be compassionate in your communication," said Darby Morhardt, a research associate professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center.

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