A unique weekend sleepover camp for Alzheimer's patients, sponsored a few times each year by the Family Caregiver Alliance, provides a much-needed break for caregivers and provides an enriching experience for patients. The retreat, which is held at a conference center near San Francisco, doesn't focus on memories lapses or cognitive decline most patients experience as a result of the disease. Instead, the aim is to leave participants with a general feel-good sensation, according to Caitlin Morgan, the gerontolgist and social worker who leads the event.
The good feeling lingers after the camp has ended, and it can even improve daily functioning, participants report. While they may not remember specific events or details that occurred during the three-day camp, Morgan says, but they can relate to the general feeling of well-being they're left with and know that something good happened during their stay.
This program is based on expert advice related to tapping into emotions to help prevent Alzheimer's patients from withdrawing into themselves. Communication is emphasized, such as recognizing memory gaps, particularly among newly diagnosed patients.
Some helpful advice is offered on communicating with Alzheimer's patients, which includes validating and redirecting when patients have misconceptions, because contradicting and correcting can cause needless frustration. For example, instead of insisting that your loved one is not eight years old and late for school, simply say that today is a holiday. Offering simple choices is also helpful, because it helps patients feel empowered and in control while not overwhelming them (offering a choice of two shirts, for example).
Morgan also says that she frequently hears patients say they want to be useful -- so offering meaningful activities is crucial. Let them wash the dishes three times in a row. Activities don't have to be complex to be engaging. Exercise can improve sleep quality, and simple activities like easy walks and reminiscing with friends stimulate the body and mind.
Read the related article on NPR.org
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