Dementia caregivers know they need to find ways to keep their loved one’s brain working, ways to stimulate those still active brain cells and keep them functional as long as possible. Most of these ways require participation by the caregiver. One of the first things Lewy steals is initiative and motivation.
Harry explained, “Even before Edna lost much if her thinking ability, I noticed apathy; Edna’s “self-starter” was damaged. When I suggested something, she was glad to follow along and seemed to enjoy the trip as much as ever. But she never started anything herself, never asked to do anything.”
“That was a couple of years ago,” he continues. But the apathy remains. ‘Let’s do a puzzle,’ I’ll say to Edna. She’ll nod. She doesn’t show much emotion—those days are over for the most part, but she will usually agree to do whatever I want her to do.” Once they start working on the puzzle, designed especially for people with dementia, Harry can tell that she’s enjoying herself. “She reaches for a piece,” he says, “tries it in a couple of spots and pats it several times when it finally fits.” True, she tires before the puzzle is done, but it will be there tomorrow for another challenge. (You can get puzzles like this on from our LBD Book Corner on our website.)
Janice sits with her mom every afternoon and asks about the photos in the family album. “Do you remember this, Mom?” “What was happening here?” “Who is this?” They spend a few minutes each day with Mom reminiscing. Janice learns more about her family history while Mom exercises her brain. A win-win situation for both of them—but it probably wouldn’t happen if Janice didn’t make it happen. “Mom used to be such a take charge lady,” Janice said. “But not anymore. Now she would just sit and stare at the wall or her lap if I didn’t encourage her to do something.
Robin and her dad, Adam, spend time reading each day. Adam had been a teacher, and a voracious reader. Now, Robin explains, “Dad can’t read, hasn’t been able to for a while now. But he is very attentive when I read. He follows right along.” Robin has discovered an important aspect of LBD—comprehension usually remains intact after other skills slip and disappear. Even though Adam cannot read himself, he can understand what Robin reads. This is why you need to be careful what you talk about in front of your loved one who is apparently incoherent, sleeping, or not paying attention. But it is also a way for some mutually enjoyable together time, “reading” something that both of you find interesting.