Tip # 1 for Caregivers

If Reverend G were writing this blog—and isn’t that a bit weird, b/c she and I really are writing this blog—she would remind us of the 7 Tips for Caregivers.

Tip # 1 is “Talk to Me.”

When we deal with Alzheimer’s patients, it is easy to forget that a living, breathing human being is in the room. Sometimes they no longer speak or their speech is affected by expressive aphasia and we can’t understand them. Most often, they want to communicate, but the correct words fail to travel from brain to tongue. In the “Unraveling of Reverend G,” even her beloved doctor talks around her and instead, addresses her son. She feels ignored and betrayed by the horrid disease that hounds her.

Last spring, my sister and I took Mom to the emergency clinic. She had a vicious cough, followed by a wheeze so we were worried about pneumonia. At one point, Mom sat on the sterile table while the doctor discussed her symptoms with my sister and me. Mom listened and acted alert, but we talked around her.

I was in the middle of editing my book, writing about Reverend G and how others ignored her. So I suddenly realized what we were doing. I looked directly at Mom and said, “The doctor is going to give you some medicine. It will help your cough. What do you think about that?”

In her typical take-charge fashion, she announced, “I’m fine. Just fine. Nothing wrong with me.”

In spite of Mom’s rebuttal, we drove to the pharmacy and bought her medicine. She swallowed it and soon felt better. But at least I gave her the opportunity to state her opinion and hopefully, she felt as if we had not forgotten her.

So Reverend G would remind us, “Keep communicating with me, even if I can’t answer. Look me in the eyes, touch me, show me you still care about the person hiding inside me. Remind me that I still matter.”

“Talk to me.”

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