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Alzheimer Disease and Communication Tools

Alzheimer Disease and other forms of Dementia are the most expensive diseases in America today.  Besides the cost to our health care system, it is draining the life savings of victims and their families.  T.R. Reid said in a recent article in the AARP Bulletin, that “the cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer Disease and other Dementias has surpassed the cost of treatment for cancer patients or victims of heart disease.  Washington has committed some $5.4 billion this fiscal year to cancer research, about $1.2 billion to heart disease, and $3 billion to research on HIV/AIDS.  Research funding for Alzheimer’s will reach only about $566 million.”

Statistics say there were 5.2 million Americans that had Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and someone new is diagnosed every 67 seconds.  Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death and 1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65 have it.  We are a long ways from preventing or curing Alzheimer Disease and we need to all work together to spread the word about this disease and help raise funding to find a cure.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease you need to learn all you can about it and search out the nearest support group where you will learn about resources, be with others who understand, and learn caregiver tips.  If you live in Sevier County we have a support group that meets at Dominion Senior Living on the 2nd Thursday of the month at 2:00PM.  You can come and bring your loved one; they can participate in an activity while we meet.  For other support group locations contact Alzheimer’s TN. for a list.

Throughout the many stages of Alzheimer’s you will need caregiver tips on a variety of subjects.  One we will address here is effective communication tips because communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s can be very challenging.  The following are helpful tips for communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Always remember most of what the person with Alzheimer’s understands is not verbal, it is your non-verbal body language and tone of your voice and SMILE.
  • Communicate in a quiet environment with no distractions.
  • Approach the individual from the front at eye level and make sure you have their attention.
  • Sometimes it helps to communicate what you want them to do if you demonstrate it.
  • Speak slowly pronouncing words clearly using short familiar words and simple sentences.
  • Ask simple questions that require yes or no answers.
  • Listen closely and respond as though you understand.

Jolene Brackey writes in her book “Creating Moments of Joy”, “people with dementia can hear, think, and feel emotions so do not talk over, through, or about them as if they are not there.”

Whether you are a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, a family member, a friend, a researcher, or caregiver we need to all work together to find a way to cure this life changing disease.

By:  Pamela Morgan RN, Executive Director Dominion Senior Living Sevierville

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