When an older family member struggles with memory loss and dementia, we often lose the ability to communicate with them in a way that is satisfying to both of us. Although there is a caregiver in the home so we don’t worry about their safety or health, and we know that trained aides use memory care techniques to sustain our loved one’s cognitive abilities, we want to do something ourselves to hang onto the bond we have with our loved ones.
Trained workers use Reality Orientation, Fantasy Validation, Music and Art Therapy with other techniques to connect with elderly clients, but there are some things you can do too, using the same principles, to maintain the bond with your elderly family member. Playing music, making art and cooking together are all great ways to connect with loved ones who are limited in their communication. Besides that benefit, studies show that these therapies can reduce pain and discomfort in the elderly.
When you play songs from their youth, you stimulate memories that can foster your loved one’s ability to connect with you. They often reminisce, and you may even learn something about your past from engaging them at that level. Research also shows that the mind uses organization tasks to process the music and that can help people reinforce cognitive abilities. When you introduce rhythm and respond to it by moving or dancing with your loved one, you further tap into that organizational element.
Drawing, painting or coloring with an impaired elderly person enables connection by accessing emotions and pleasure areas that the person has trouble verbalizing. When language begins to slip away, emotions are still strong; drawing, using color and texture can activate those emotions and the memories that rise with them.
Even cooking with your loved one is a powerful tool. Food, in its preparation and in the eating of it, is so important to family life and to who we are as individuals( especially women). Simple recipes like scrambled eggs, cakes and cookies, even making a peanut butter sandwich together, can bring back those emotional memories of family that connect us to our loved ones.
For more information on how to enrich your loved one’s life, or to find out how a live-in aide can give you peace of mind, contact us. Together,as a team, we can keep your family ties stronger, longer.