Being a Friend to Someone with Memory Loss

by Alzheimer's Disease, Practical Guidance, Wisdom0 comments

Dear Friends,

If I should experience dementia, I would like you to know the following helpful information. Meanwhile, this information may also help you care for a friend or family member who is experiencing dementia or some other form of memory loss.

In 1996, Alzheimer’s disease advocate, Jo Huey, came up with “10 Absolutes” for those who encounter and care for individuals with dementia/Alzheimer’s:

  1. Agree, never argue
  2. Divert, never reason
  3. Distract, never shame
  4. Reassure, never lecture
  5. Reminisce, never say “remember”
  6. Repeat, never say “I told you”
  7. Let them do what they can do, never say “you can’t”
  8. Ask, never demand
  9. Encourage, never condescend
  10. Reinforce, never force

In addition, you might find some activities that you and a friend with memory loss can do together. First, ask your friend’s primary caregiver (or a staff member if they are in assisted living) what would make a suitable activity. For those who are still mobile, perhaps you could work a puzzle, go for a walk, cook a simple meal, do some light organizing of their room/household, or water the plants. For those who are more restricted, you can engage by looking through family photos or large “coffee table” style photo books or enjoying a light snack together. Something as simple as looking out the window and commenting on the scenery or wildlife can also be an enjoyable activity. For more ideas, check out the Alzheimer’s Association 50 Activities page on their website.

. . . and dear friends, if I should reach a point where I do not recognize or respond to you, please consider the following lesson I learned when my friend Marianne no longer recognized me or responded to me. I remember wondering why I should continue visiting her.  Then a professional caregiver told me that it is important to keep visiting a person with dementia even when they cannot respond.  She said it was like going to a movie that is heartwarming, encouraging and positive and you walk out feeling good about yourself and the world. That feeling may linger for several days.  That is what it is like for a person with dementia.  When you visit, they can feel your kindness and love.  They can’t put those feelings into words, but they feel the warmth and peace and love—on the inside.

So just hold my hand (or a friend’s hand) and tell me about wonderful memories we have shared, and I will feel loved.

For more articles on this topic, please see our Alzheimer’s page.

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder is the founder of the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband Larry.


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