The greatest impediment to communicating with people with Alzheimer’s disease is the illusion of knowledge that the person is already gone. — Michael Verde, founder of Memory Bridge.
There seems to be this notion that people with advanced Alzheimer’s are nothing, but a shell of the person they once were. Even more tragic is the fact that this belief can lead friends and family members to think there’s no reason to visit since they won’t remember, or they don’t know what’s going on around them.
I can’t stress enough the importance of debunking that myth. While it’s true that a loved one with Alzheimer’s is not the same person you knew before the disease took hold, they never cease to be human or have human needs. Like all of us, they crave connection and without it, they slowly, silently wither away and die.
Naomi Feil shows us a powerful example through her poignant interaction with Gladys Wilson in the 2007 documentary, There is a Bridge. Alzheimer’s patients may appear devoid of cognition and emotion, but nothing could be farther from the truth. At the beginning of the clip, we see a completely non-verbal woman who seems to be fully detached from the world. And then, a gradual transformation until by the end of the video, she is finishing a verse of a popular traditional American spiritual. It’s a stunning illustration of the very point I’m trying to make.
It might take some creativity, patience, and effort to reach them, but when that happens there is no greater reward than seeing the joy and love in their eyes. It breaks my heart to think of the millions of people who are essentially alone without these connections. The fear and loneliness must be overwhelming; to have the majority of the world act as though you’re already gone when you’re still very much alive is heartbreaking.
Reread the quote from Michael Verde at the top of this post. Illusion. We convince ourselves that they’re gone, but this is an Alzheimer’s myth that must be crushed…
Have you found any particularly helpful ways to connect with your loved one? Please share your experience by leaving a comment below.
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