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Unlocking Empathy and Compassion: The Power of Communication in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

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Ayanna Amadi
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Unlocking Empathy and Compassion: The Power of Communication in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

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Understanding Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Mental Health

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Alzheimer’s and dementia are not just physical conditions but they also encompass a complex interplay of mental health issues. Though Alzheimer's is not a form of mental illness, studies have established a link between mental health issues like depression and impaired cognition in older individuals. Alzheimer’s and mental health concerns may be challenging for those living with dementia. However, clinical trials targeting older individuals with depression who have medical markers for Alzheimer’s may lead to earlier identification and intervention, potentially slowing the progression of the disease. The use of hashtags #Alzheimers, #dementia, and #kindness suggests a focus on the compassionate and supportive aspects of communication in caregiving for individuals with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Effective Communication for Better Quality of Life

Effective and empathetic communication plays a fundamental role in enhancing the quality of life for seniors with dementia. It is important to approach them from the front, speak slowly, and offer small chunks of information at a time to aid in comprehension. Showing respect and being mindful of their triggers and reactions can make a significant difference in their emotional wellbeing. In situations where verbal communication becomes challenging, nonverbal communication such as hugging or looking at a photo album can help establish a connection.

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Art Therapy: Expressing Emotions and Memories

Art therapy has emerged as a powerful tool to help individuals living with Alzheimer's express themselves and recall memories. Programs like Memories in the Making, launched by the Alzheimer’s Association, encourages individuals in early to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s to create artwork. Highline Place in Littleton, Colorado, a participant in the program, has had at least one participant chosen for the local Alzheimer’s auction each year for a decade. The program has gained popularity in memory care communities nationwide, and the art therapy has been successful in helping individuals with Alzheimer's communicate emotions and memories.

Ethical Considerations in Dementia Prevention Research

As we navigate the intersection of social media and dementia prevention research, ethical considerations become crucial. A lack of empirical justification reflecting the values and priorities of the dementia community and the challenges specific to prevention research have been noted. Qualitative interviews conducted online with professional and community experts reveal a dearth of social media guidelines for prevention research, digital inequities, and the need for more guidance. These insights will be used to inform the co-creation of ethical guidelines for brain health research, ultimately contributing to more inclusive and effective practices in dementia care.

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