As Karl stood up with me on one side and my friend Dave on the other, the sound of M&M’s hitting the floor surprised all three of us.
“You’re like a pinata at a birthday party, Karl,” Dave teased while all of us laughed, Karl laughing the hardest while we stood, his colorful candy dotting the floor.
As an experienced occupational therapist, the most valuable lessons I’ve learned were not from my years of formal education.

As a matter of fact, the more “educated” I became, the more I realized it was observation, connection, and communication that made me a better therapist for my families and patients. Sharing what I learned from them is vital to changing my patients’ lives for the better.
My friend Karl would work only with myself and my coworker Dave. He responded to how we communicated with him, and laughter, ease of anxiety, and PROGRESS were the results of his work.

Heres a list of guidelines to follow, no matter what your role is with a person who has Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

I was directed to it by a family I treated in home care. They posted a copy in several rooms to remind themselves and to educate visitors about how to communicate successfully with their loved one. Following these guidelines will change your lives for the better and bring harmony to your home and relationship with our loved ones.
It is disheartening to observe or overhear occupational and physical therapy coworkers
use terms such as, “They have no memory—they won’t make progress” or “Their attention
span is too limited to work with.”

All of my successful families have several things in common:

  • They follow a guideline as above for communication.
  • They provide supervision/assistance to allow their loved one to physically and cognitively do as much as they can possibly do for themselves without getting upset or agitated.
  • And they seek the proper therapeutic interventions to assist in providing the most up-to-date treatment techniques to keep our loved ones home safely and longer.  
In over 20 years of therapy experience, I have never seen this approach fail.

What helps you?
Keep an eye out for my next post on activities to stimulate long-term memory and strengthen the bond between patient and family.

Donna L. Roe, OTR/M.Ed., has worked in home health care as an occupational therapist for over 20 years. Having seen successful families and frustrated families deal with every kind of problem imaginable, she has learned from them what works by combining the right interventions for families based on their individual needs.