By Carol Simpson
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Through much of the disease, people with Alzheimer's still feel the essential human emotions of love, longing for closeness, the need to give and receive affection, the pain of loneliness and isolation and the desire to share their feelings and be understood. At the same time, however, they not be able to find the words or actions to express themselves. That can lead to depression, frustration and difficult behavior.
As a caregiver, you want to provide as many opportunities for emotional expression and sharing as possible --- through touch, talk and shared activities.
Some of the most effective techniques include:
* Arranging for the person with Alzheimer's to establish a regular relationship with a pet. Pets provide extraordinary benefits, allowing the person to express and receive unconditional love. Research has also shown that pets can relieve stress. If you do not have a pet, perhaps you can get one. A quiet, calm mature cat or dog would be ideal. If that it not possible, maybe you could work out an arrangement with a neighbor or friend to "borrow" their pet on a regular basis.
* Giving the person a gentle hand or foot massage. Touch is soothing and reassuring to everyone, but for some people with Alzheimer's it is especially comforting.
* Retracing old memories by looking through photo albums together.
* Singing or listening to music together. Many people with Alzheimer's find they remember old song lyrics quite well.
(c) copyright 1994
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