Memory Techniques and Communication Tips
In case you are wondering what qualifications I have that I think give me a little knowledge in offering you assistance in this area, below is my battle-scarred background in teaching learning and memory strategies:
- Certification in teaching high school English
- Worked in Special Education for 25 years -Pre-school through adult
- Speech and Language Therapy Assistant for the last 11 years -preschool through high school.
- In this capacity, it was my job to:
- Understand comprehension and language difficulties in students whose brains just didn’t process information normally. Break down directions and information into manageable segments for these students.
- Teach techniques to understand and remember written and oral language. These students were disorganized, forgetful, and confused. What information they did process, they processed very slowly. Just like our Alzheimer afflicted spouses.
HOW CAN LEARNING MEMORY TECHNIQUES HELP MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY SPOUSE?
Dealing with a spouse who forgets what you said 5 minutes ago; forgets what he/she said 5 minutes ago; repeats the same thing over and over and over again; and asks you the same questions over and over and over again causes STRESS, and stress strains your already deteriorating relationship.
When your spouse is better organized, and able to remember things on his/her own, your lives will be less stressful and your relationship less strained.
EARLY TO MID STAGES - SPOUSES WHO ARE RELATIVELY FUNCTIONAL AND CAN STILL READ.
- Purchase a spiral notebook. DO NOT USE LITTLE PIECES OF PAPER OR STICKY NOTES - They end up all over the house, and I guarantee your spouse will NOT REMEMBER where he/she put them.
- Put the notebook where your spouse can easily access it all day - the kitchen table worked best in my house.
- Label the top of the page with the day and date.
- Number each line.
- Next to the number, write in clear, simple language what your spouse is to do for the day.
- Take your pills.
- Sweep the kitchen floor.
- Take out the garbage.
- Dr. Jones appointment – 1 PM – We will go together.
- Return Joe’s (his friend) phone call from yesterday.
Teach your spouse to CHECK OFF each task as it is finished. My husband, who originally fought me for MONTHS on this one, now says it gives him a feeling of accomplishment when he checks off a completed task. Now, when he says, "Remind me to do........; remind me to do..........; Remind me to do..........;, I tell him to write it in his book, and he does it without complaining. Sometimes, he even remembers to write it down without asking me to remind him.
When your AD spouse has a method of recalling information, he/she is less frustrated and angry, and as Sid said, then is able to feel a sense of accomplishment. He/she is calmer for it, and you are calmer because you did not have to deal with him/her forgetting everything for that day.
LATER STAGES - SPOUSES WHO CANNOT READ
Two strategies that may work in later stages for aiding memory are Pictures and Models.
When your spouse puts the keys in the refrigerator; the milk in the cabinet; and their clothes in every corner of the house, it causes you major stress. You can never find anything when it is needed. Nothing is guaranteed at any stage of AD, but try these techniques:
- Take a picture of a dish, and put it on the cabinet door; a picture of silverware for the outside of the silverware drawer; a picture of underwear on the outside of the underwear drawer.You could draw a simple picture, but that is probably more time consuming than taking pictures with a digital camera.
- Make it a family activity – if there are children at home, this is a good way to engage them in the care and understanding of the needs of your AD stricken husband/wife. Yes, I know kids can be sullen and uncooperative, but it’s worth a try. Grandchildren are generally very willing to help in this area.
- The stage your spouse is in will determine how much help they will need in putting items away. For some, the pictures may be all that is needed to give them back a little independence. For others, you will still need to direct them.
- Set up a model of what you want your spouse to do. For example, set one place at the table, and ask them to do the other one.
- Put items in the recycle bin, and give them the rest to put in there.
- While making the bed, put a pillow on one side, and give them a pillow to put next to it.
- They keep your spouse close by when you are doing household chores, so you don’t have to worry where they are or what they are getting into.
- They may ease your spouse’s anxiety by allowing them to be near you.
- They may make your spouse feel somewhat productive.
These activites may ease yur stress:
HOW TO SPEAK TO AN AD SPOUSE SO THEY WILL UNDERSTAND YOU
STOP, LOOK, LISTEN, WAIT, AND ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS, ARE THE WORDS TO LIVE BY.
People without AD are usually so busy and distracted that they don't pay any attention to what you are saying unless you get their attention first. There is no way you are going to get an AD afflicted person to listen and understand until you eliminate all distractions:
- STOP - Gently ask them to stop what they are doing because you would like to talk to them. There can be no distractions, such as the TV, or any other activity they are engaged in. If they are agitated, forget it, and wait until they are calm.
- LOOK - Ask them to look at you. Eye contact is essential.
- LISTEN - Gently ask them to please listen to what you are going to say.
- WAIT - Wait to see if they understand what you said - ask them to repeat it - they don't have to repeat it exactly, just enough so you know they understood.
SPEAK IN SHORT, SIMPLE SENTENCES
Too long and complicated: Joe asked us if we wanted to go to the beach tomorrow, but I said I didn't want to get all full of sand, so maybe we'll go to the pool instead. We'll pack a lunch and the drinks.
Better: We're going to the pool with Joe tomorrow.
Give one direction at a time, and WAIT until it is completed before giving another.
Too much: Bring the laundry basket upstairs and fold the towels; then put them away into the linen closet.
- Please bring the laundry basket upstairs. When that is done, give the next direction.
- Please fold the towels. When that is done, give the next direction.
- Please put the towels in the linen closet. Always speak slowly and clearly.
Speechcansoundlikethistoaconfusedpersonwhohas difficultyprocessinglanguage. They will understand you better if you speak one word at a time- do not slur your words together quickly.
All of these techniques have been successful with many AD sufferers. Remember - everyone is different, and Alzheimer's Disease affects everyone differently, but these do work in most cases. The more independent your spouse can feel, and the more they understand you when you speak, the less frustrated and angry they will be. Your stress level decreases in proportion to their frustration level, which can only improve your relationship.