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"Keeping Love Alive" Throughout Alzheimer's

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerFebruary 22, 2017

In 1992, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman took a leading role in changing relationships for the better. The idea that people receive and show love in different ways helped restore and revitalize relationships as people who read the book began to understand how to speak the other’s “love language.”

The love language concept is now being applied to the Alzheimer’s caregiving community, helping caregivers receive and share love throughout Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Learn more about the evolution of the book and how it’s sending a message of hope to those affected by the disease.

Applying the Five Love Languages to Caregiving Throughout Alzheimer’s

Caregiver and chair of radiation oncology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, Ed Shaw, applied the principles of the five love languages while caring for his wife who lived with the disease for nine years. The book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, best-selling author and senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, helped him find unique and creative ways to care for his wife.

“l really liked the ‘Five Love Language’ framework,” Shaw said. “I started using it in couples’ therapy. I was using this in therapy, but applying it to Rebecca’s and my relationship.”

Barr was working with Shaw while he was applying the fundamental of love languages to caring for his wife and she used his personal experiences to write the book. “Our focus is different because we’re focusing not on the disease but on the relationships that are affected by the disease,” Barr said. “At its heart, it is a book about love. It’s a book about relationships and not losing the relationship you have when a person develops dementia.”

Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade: The 5 Love Languages and the Alzheimer’s Journey” was published in October. The five love languages outlined in the book are:

  • Acts of service
  • Gifts
  • Physical touch
  • Quality time
  • Words of affirmation

The book includes a questionnaire and ways to identify a loved one’s love language, even in the later stages of the disease. “If you can think back: In earlier years what did they complain about? What did they ask for? How did they express love to others?” Chapman said. “If you love others it’s satisfying. The happiest people in the world are those who serve others.”

Spreading Hope to the Alzheimer’s Community

The authors hope that not only will caregivers use the book to aid them in caregiving, but will also let family and friends know their own caregiving language.

“It’s physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting to be a care partner,” Shaw said. “The primary care partner has to be intentional about keeping the emotional love tank full. There are times as a care partner the journey will break you. For me, this book is ostensibly about hope, the hope that I can love that person until they take their last breath.”

He went on to say, “Hoping is coping. I think you also gain an appreciation for softly spoken love languages so that even just sitting together holding hands would be quality time and physical touch — just to watch a movie — that can have so much more meaning.”

Have you read this book and have you applied it to your caregiving journey? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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