Memory Books: A book of pictures of the individual and the individual’s past with clearly written out descriptions of what is going on in each picture. Memory books are great additions to create a supportive space for an individual with Alzheimer’s — there is no need to specifically remember something because the information is written down. The visual is often an easy primer of the memory, and choosing emotionally impactful photos from an individual’s past ensures the stronger possibility that the image will be more easily accessed from the brain’s memory.
An example from “How You Are to Me” is a picture of John and Margaret at the Lemon Ice King in Corona, Queens in 1960.
Modelling: A form of dementia communication when instead of doing something for the individual, you exemplify how to do a task by doing it yourself in a slow and simple way so that the individual can follow. One example from “How You Are to Me” is buttering a slice of bread for breakfast. It allows the individual with Alzheimer’s to feel respected, as they should be, and not feel like they are being infantilized.
Clothes Ordering: Often, in an attempt to “help” others, we do things for them. And, in that act of “helping” we take away a fundamental part of being an adult — the control and ability to do things on our own. With Alzheimer’s, many worry that an individual will not be able to do one thing or another, so we take that away from them. The more we take away, the less we allow that person to feel like the adult that they are. If the things you can do were taken away from you, without permission, you might form negative behavioral reactions, among other things, withdrawing. ALLOWING an individual living with Alzheimer’s to do MORE and NOT LESS for him or herself gives that person back their sense of worth and being as an adult.
One way of HELPING BUT NOT TAKING OVER is to layout a person’s clothes in the order he or she would put them on — underwear, socks, pants, shirt, tie, jacket, … . This sequencing helps get over the Alzheimer’s degradation of the ability to organize large numbers of items (by creating the order first), and makes it possible, often times, for individuals with Alzheimer’s to dress themselves, rather than an aide or caregiver dressing them. Getting dressed is a repeated motor skill that we have done all our lives, it does not go away. These repeated skills are among the most retained, and helping, by understanding what parts the disease makes harder, can make all the difference.
Physical procedural tasks from earlier in life are often in the body’s memory and both can be enjoyable and calming activities for an individual with Alzheimer’s.
For example, a former telephone repair person may enjoy and be calmed by fixing a rotary phone.