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Six top tips for effectively engaging with people living with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and memory loss!
Enhance Social Engagement & Emotional Connection
We are social and emotional creatures. We all experience emotions such as joy, sadness, pleasure and pain. We laugh, we cry, and we get frustrated. We also have a deep desire to connect with other people in meaningful ways and to feel loved, accepted and appreciated for who we are. SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT & EMOTIONAL CONNECTION are important for meeting these basic human needs for all of us.
When words are confusing, people with cognitive impairment often rely on non-verbal social and emotional cues – such as facial expressions and body language – to help make sense of the world around them. Positive non-verbal communication – such as smiling and gentle touch – can be reassuring.
Noticing our own emotions may help us understand and accept the emotions of others. Directly addressing underlying needs and feelings beneath the words that are said, or the behaviors that are present, can be an effective way to communicate and connect.
Movement & Repetition
The brain is a truly amazing organ. It can learn and remember new things without even being aware that it is learning! While many people with memory loss may not remember recent events, they can remember everyday movements and even learn sequences of muscle movements through repetition: the body remembers even when the mind forgets.
One of our goals in the MOVING Together program is to build procedural or ‘muscle’ memory for basic daily functions such as transitioning between sitting and standing and balancing while standing. These abilities are critical for independent function. They are an essential part of being able to sit and stand when using the toilet and to balance while dressing and bathing.
This type of unconscious ‘procedural’ learning is especially important in people with memory loss. By repeating sequences of basic movements, and slowly building toward more complex movements, it may be possible to help people with memory loss maintain their ability to do daily tasks for themselves.
Music & Rhythm
Music and rhythm are powerful, primal forces. Listening to music can initiate and organize complex neurological brain connections.
Oliver Sacks, a well-known neurologist, wrote about the powerful effects of music in his 2008 book called Musicophilia, Tales of Music in the Brain. In addition, a recent documentary called “Alive Inside” showed how music can bring back memories in people with memory loss.
Music can provide pleasure, calm, or stimulate. Moving in time with the music provides a satisfying experience of congruity and joining with others. The body has its rhythms.
In the MOVING Together program, we use MUSIC for a purpose, to organize physical movement through rhythm, and to promote good feelings and social connection.
Novelty & Learning
What happens when experiencing something unusual or unexpected? We learn something new. Our human brains thrive on learning and develop through appropriately stimulating environments. In the MOVING Together program, we offer a series of novel integrative experiences designed to create safety, stimulate curiosity through novelty, move gently to challenge our perceived limits, and enjoy our successes.
Rest & Reflection
Breaking up stimulating activity with brief rest periods helps maintain healthy attention. In the MOVING Together program, we rest between movements to reflect on how we feel in the moment and develop self-awareness.
Gratitude & Appreciation
In the MOVING Together program, we honor the present moment by sharing appreciations and what we are grateful for. This sharing deepens our relationship with ourselves and enhances connection and community.
Take a moment to reflect on these suggestions. Consider how the suggestions are similar or different from your approach. Notice when and where in your day you can explore engaging your loved ones in new ways.
Adapted from the MOVING Together Home Exercise Guide. The MOVING Together Home Exercise Guide was written by the Prevention of Loss of Independence through Exercise (PLIÉ) Research Study & Together Senior Health teams.
If you are interested in MOVING Together or you would like to hear more about Together’s online programs, contact us at email@example.com