A: One of the challenges of Alzheimer’s is that it will cause a person to lose the ability to recognize loved ones. But studies have shown that dementia patients do remember the emotional imprint of an experience even after they have forgotten the event itself. The study suggests that even if a demented person cannot remember that you paid him or her a visit or engaged him or her in a pleasant conversation, they can still benefit from the good feelings brought by your good deed.
Dementia patients’ memories may be ravaged, but their emotional acuity is keener than ever, like an infant reacting to stresses in their surroundings. As their memory and thinking abilities decline, it seems this is accompanied by the enhancement of other emotional processes.
Dementia patients tend to “mirror” the emotions of those around them. This means if the people around a dementia patient are anxious or angry, the demented person will pick up and copy those emotions. Most behavioral changes in a person with progressive dementia are rooted in the frustration of being unable to master an emotional or physical environment that feels like a foreign territory. That is why you have to change the environment or your own expectations to set up an everyday world that is calm and reassuring when around a dementia patient. Emotions have a language all their own. So go visit a loved dementia patient. He or she might not remember who you are, but the emotion you bring will be remembered.
Information provided by Pam Walker, administrator, Adel Acres Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, 1919 Greene St., Adel, 515-993-4511.