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I Have Alzheimer’s or Another Dementia
Automatic Function -What It Really Is
Automatic Function /
Functioning is what results whenever you have practiced a task so often that it
example of this is when you were first learning to tie your shoes it was very
difficult. You had to work very hard to
coordinate all your fingers. You had to
remember the sequence of patterns that the laces had to go in. And, for a while, this task was challenging
for you and took some time and attention.
However, after a year or so, you became able to tie your shoes with
ease. Indeed, you could probably even
tie them with your eyes shut. When a
task, like tying your shoes, becomes so easy that you can tie them without conscious
thought or attention, it becomes part of your automatic functioning.
that are stored in one's automatic functioning are often well preserved in
tasks that are part of our automatic functioning require little conscious
thought or attention, they use very little of one's mental resources. Therefore, a person with dementia who has
learned to make use of their automatic function, can often retain many
important functions and tasks well into the end of stage 5 and often somewhat
into stage 6.
Some Tasks that are stored
in our Automatic Functions:
Talking, especially greetings and partings.
Any form of talking that is habitual or repeated often during their
How you behave in certain situations.
Again, the kinds of behaviors that are habitual or have been repeated
- When you come into a seminar
are talk, you go take a seat facing the front of the room.
- When someone extends their
hand to you, you shake it.
- When someone smiles, you smile
Riding a bike / how to balance on a bike.
Walking / sitting down / standing up / bending arms and legs / etc.
Tying one's shoes.
That cups are for drinking / how to eat.
can make use of these Automatic Functions to preserve and increase one's
independent, or semi-dependent's functioning.
that when people have dementia, as it progresses, they lose that they still
have these behaviors within them. Often
when caregivers ask people with dementia to do things, they give an instruction
only. When you only give a verbal
instruction, then the person cannot use their Automatic Function, but instead
has to manually process it which likely is not going to work well. To access the Automatic Function, when a
person with dementia can no longer do so on their own, make the movement
yourself where they can see. When you
ask them to sit down, bend like you are sitting down yourself.
someone with dementia, when they can still tap into their Automatic Function,
you can use this to retain many of your own functions. You just have to figure out how to allow it
to become your default programming. For
example, I no longer ever try to think about saying hello or goodbye to anyone
because I know when these things are needed, they will just be there. Especially saying goodbye. You can feel the conversation wrapping
down. You sense that something belongs
in that space. If you just do not think
about it, out comes the way you normally say goodbye to people. Although I have not slipped and said goodbye
with an "I love you," like I normally would (yet). This is because I shut down that response in
myself...and now have great trouble saying it when I need to (like with my