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Goal: Keep an Alzheimer's Patient Happy

Posted May 10 2010 5:17am

At the end of the day, the Alzheimer's caregiver and patient both benefit. ....
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

How do you keep an Alzheimer's patient happy? As many of you know, I am always looking for ways to keep Dotty happy. How to keep her "more there". They really go hand in hand.

I struggled with the problem for a long time. This was especially true during those two long years before we learned she was suffering from hypothyroidism.

I already wrote about how I finally decided that Dotty and I would start living our life the way we always had. Alzheimer's be damed.

Once I made that decision the answer to the question above was easy to discover. Do things that the person suffering from Alzheimer's always enjoyed doing. Yes, there are some constraints but they really shouldn't be viewed as obstacles that cannot be overcome. All it takes is a little creativity.

Take a ride in the care.

Dotty likes to ride in the car. Along our ride Dotty might remark about how big the trees are. We have some huge banyan trees down here in Delray Beach. We also have big beautiful clouds. Sometimes Dotty looks at a cloud and says, it looks like a dog. Actually, she only says it looks like a dog now that I think about it.

Dotty loves when we ride through downtown Delray. She gets excited about all the people walking around. All the people sitting outside the restaurants. It really does perk her up. The best thing, its a brand new experience every time out.

For some reason Dotty doesn't get as excited about looking at the ocean or beach. I think she is afraid of water.

Go for a visit.

Dotty really enjoys visiting people. This does enliven her. It doesn't hurt that the people we visit are always giving her food -- mostly cake and candy.

There are lots of places we can visit. We can go to the dog run, visit the dogs. Dotty is always fascinated when she sees the dogs. It really amazes her.


Games and mental exercises are good for persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Jigsaw puzzles and games they use to enjoy playing over the course of their lives.

This doesn't work well for Dotty. She was never really into game playing and she isn't now. There is one exception -- slot machines. Sadly, she no longer understands how they work. But the idea of playing makes her one happy camper. Dotty would love a trip to Vegas.


Dotty digs music. We are lucky, we have the music channels on our cable television. This allows me to play songs from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Sometimes Dotty will start singing some of the words from some way old song that is obscure to me. This actually makes me feel happy.

Eating out.

This is by far Dotty's favorite. First, she loves food. Second, she loves being around people.

I wrote an article -- Alzheimer's Caregiver Lament -- I can't take her out because she eats with her hands about this issue that you might find of interest. It is easy to come up with excuses not to do, or let, someone suffering from Alzheimer's do things. In the article I discuss the easy solution to a common problem -- eating with the hands instead of utensils. Eat finger foods. Burgers, chicken, wings, fries, whatever.

The real reason some Alzheimer's caregivers won't take persons suffering from Alzheimer's out is because they are embarrassed by them. Try to get over it. Not only will the person suffering from Alzheimer's act better if you take them out, you'll feel better. Way better.

Some of you might be finding that when you want to do something the Alzheimer's patient says no. No, I don't want to go out. No, I don't want to do that. The word "NO" is pretty common when it comes to someone suffering from Alzheimer's dementia. You might allow this to distress you. You shouldn't. Start accepting that some Alzheimer's patients live in the world of "No".

I am at the point where when my mother says no, I just laugh. Not at her. Not in any mean spirited way. More like, here we go again. The word no is part of our life. I accept this to be true. Accept.

Now, when Dotty says no, I just start moving her along as I explain how much fun she is going to have, or how she is going to benefit. Even when she fights me on the pee, I laugh. I start moving her along as I explain why now instead of later. Or agree she went recently, and why it is a good idea to do it again.

The pattern is established. Dotty says No. I start moving her along as if she said Yes. I start talking and explaining. Dotty starts to cooperate most of the time. I learned NO doesn't me no the way we usually use and understand the word.

There are some trying circumstances with Dotty. In these cases I stop and start over in a few minutes. This is one of those instances where you learn to put what is bad about Alzheimer's to some good. Since she doesn't remember I tried this five minutes ago, it is like a new experience. She never says, I told you NO five minutes ago, or we already discussed this.

Accept Alzheimer's and make it work for you.

All of tips above are simple things you can do to create happiness inside Alzheimer's world. There are ways to help keep a person suffering from Alzheimer's happy and active. You need to discover what works best for you.

At the end of the day, the Alzheimer's caregiver and patient both benefit.

Not only will you be happier, the joy of seeing your loved one operating and functioning will fill your heart with joy. Good day, not bad day.

That's what I beleive.

If you have any good ideas or suggestions please add them to this article by using the comments box below this article.

Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,400 articles with more than 9,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room
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