“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou gave this advice in general terms, but it has an insightful connection to Alzheimer’s care. It is accepted that Alzheimer’s and dementia undoubtedly alter relationships, but the loss of memory can’t possibly completely erase them. Just because a person can’t remember it, doesn’t mean they can’t still feel.

Researches from the University Of Iowa Carver College Of Medicine affirm that people with Alzheimer’s are “profoundly impacted emotionally by events they cannot recall.” The more impaired a person’s memory of a specific event is, the stronger their feelings- both positive and negative- about that experience will be.

To prove this, the researchers showed emotionally provoking videos to elders ranging from morose to cheerful or funny, and were given memory tests afterwards. The elders reacted predictably: they could not remember most details about the videos, if at all, but they could describe the emotions that would go along with the videos and they didn’t understand why. “I feel like all my emotions and feelings are rushing in on me,” said one participant, “It’s extremely confusing and I do not like the feelings.”

The elder’s discomfort is important to highlight, researchers claim, because it provides insight into the distress that a so-called “free-floating” state of emotion can have on individuals with memory impairment. When a person with Alzheimer’s can’t remember what it is that is making them sad, it can cause their feelings of agitation to become stronger and last longer.

The study is important in reminding us as caregivers that our actions towards our patients have consequences, even when they might not remember. What is most important in the care for a senior with dementia or Alzheimer’s is making them feel comfortable and at ease as often as you can to ensure their emotional and mental well-being.

If your senior in the East Bay is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, Senior Helpers of Moraga offers compassionate and supporting caregivers who understand the importance of cheerful and positive visits and home care. For more information call our office at (925)376-800 or visit our website.

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