One of the most painful realities for dementia caregivers is the loss of recognition. As memory erodes, the patient loses the ability to recognize those most dear to them such as spouses, children, and siblings. Michelle Bourgeois, a speech-pathology professor at Ohio State University has come up with a system that allows caregivers to bridge that communication gap, at least temporarily. She advises caregivers to use flash cards to help ease those identity issues and answer the questions which dementia patients will repeat endlessly.
For instance, Bourgeois had a caregiver create two flashcards . One had a photo of herself as a child, which she labeled “This is my daughter Susan, at age 6.” The second card had a photo of her at her current age. That one was labeled “This is my daughter Susan now.” The woman showed the cards to her mother, who had lost the ability to know who her daughter was. The mother studied the two photos and captions and was able to recognize her daughter and converse with her as her daughter and not as some vaguely familiar stranger.
One had a photo of herself as a child, which she labeled “This is my daughter Susan, at age 6.” The second card had a photo of her at her current age. That one was labeled “This is my daughter Susan now.”
Bourgeois advises caregivers to use similar systems to provide answers to the obsessively repeated questions. When the asking begins, the caregiver can hand the card to the patient and say, “The answer is on the card.” She reports that in the majority of case, it calms the patient and the questioning stops. One key to using this system to bridge the communications gap is to be sure that the print on the card is large and easy to read, and that whatever is printed is a short, simple sentence.
*Photo: Rasdourian via Flickr