Tips for Dementia Caregiving

1) Start with a Good Feeling Each Day

Caregivers have a profound influence on the

emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer's.

A University of Iowa study further supports an inescapable

message: caregivers have a profound influence -- good or bad --

on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a

nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel.

The findings of this study are published in the journal, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.

UI researchers showed individuals with Alzheimer's clips of sad and happy movies. The patients

experienced sustained states of sadness and happiness despite not remembering the movies.

"This confirms that the emotional life of an Alzheimer's patient is alive and well," says lead

author Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez. Despite the considerable amount of research aimed at finding new

treatments for Alzheimer's, no drug has succeeded at either preventing it. Against this backdrop,

this study highlights the need to develop new caregiving techniques aimed at improving the wellbeing

and minimizing the suffering for the millions of individuals afflicted with Alzheimer's.

For this behavioral study, Guzmán-Vélez and colleagues invited 17 patients with Alzheimer's and 17

healthy participants to view 20 minutes of sad and then happy movies. These movie clips triggered

expected emotions: sorrow and tears during the sad films and laughter during the happy ones.

Five minutes after watching the movies, participants took a memory test to see if they could recall

what they had just seen. As expected, the patients with Alzheimer's retained significantly less

information about both the sad and happy films than the healthy people. In fact, four were unable to

recall any factual information about the films, and one patient didn't even remember watching any

movies.

Before and after seeing the films, participants answered questions to gauge their feelings. Patients

with Alzheimer's disease reported elevated levels of either sadness or happiness for up to 30

minutes after viewing the films despite having little or no recollection of the movies. Quite strikingly,

the less the patients remembered about the films, the longer their sadness lasted. While sadness

tended to last a little longer than happiness, both emotions far outlasted the memory of the films.

The fact that forgotten events continue to exert profound influences on patients' emotional life

highlights the need for caregivers to avoid causing negative feelings and to try to induce positive

feelings.

"Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward

patients really do matter," Guzmán-Vélez says. She suggests simple things that can have a

lasting emotional impact on a patient's quality of life and subjective well-being, such as:

Frequent visits

Social interactions

Exercise

Music

Dance

Jokes

Serving patients their favorite

foods.1

1 SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care