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Do you have to ask the question?

04 Apr 2009
Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times - April 2009

The first thing I do when I bump in to a family I have worked with is to greet the Alzheimer individual with a handshake, a direct look into their eyes, and introduce myself with “Hi John, I’m Bonnie.” It doesn’t matter if I have met this person many times before, or if our last meeting was hours earlier.

But sometimes the family caregiver will see me approaching and by the time we are face to face she is already asking the loved one if they know who I am. It’s hard not to notice the confused look on the individual’s face as I witness their inability to remember me. Sometimes one or two more questions are asked before I am able to reintroduce myself.

Memory losses associated with Alzheimer’s are irreversible. No special juices or vitamins will bring back the person’s memory. Certain medications may slow the progression of the disease, and physical and cognitive exercises are beneficial, but the losses, both physical and mental, are permanent and sadly progressive.

So why ask the question? Are people testing their loved one’s memory? Are they hoping for the right answer? Do they think the questions will help stir up memory? At times, asking too many questions may agitate the person. They feel that they are expected to know something but can’t find the answer. Well meaning family members may think that they will help the person recover their memory.

Recreologists working with groups of Alzheimer patients will include cognitive exercises such as word puzzles and memory games as part of their program. But people are not singled out and directly asked if they can remember certain things. These professionals know how to give hints and assist those who show signs of agitation. Activities are presented in a playful and non-threatening way. It is interesting to observe these groups when members get excited after they hear the leader give the answer as though they had answered themselves.

So rather than asking your loved one if they know someone’s name, reintroduce the person: “Look John, it’s Bonnie. ” This is a simple way of reducing unnecessary frustration in your loved one.


Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775