We’ve all heard it before – ‘Play to Your Strengths”. This adage applies in all sorts of situations in life and I was reminded of its applicability when I was presenting to an Early Stage Alzheimer’s Group at the Lanark County Alzheimer’s Society this week. One of the participants spoke about the loss of his short-term memory and the consequent sharpening of his long-term memory. Faced with that change, he focused on the strength of his long-term memory and wrote a book about his life.
A similar thought process emerged in a recent article in the Atlantic magazine entitled: “Creative Aging: The Emergence of Artistic Talents”. In that article the author, Richard Senelick, highlighted Lester Potts, who became an acclaimed water colorist as his dementia progressed. He lost verbal abilities of expression but gained “artistic” ones that he could express through a paint brush.
The human spirit is creative and hungers for connection, so when the brain loses certain ways of communicating it will try and find others. Our challenge as caregivers is to meet the individual we care for in their new space – listening to their new ways of communicating – and connecting with them there. As Senelick states, “our challenge is to take the time and make the effort to meet them in ‘their now,’ which is still rich with emotion.”