- By Mike Good
(Editor's Note: This is the second in a series examining and interpreting a commonly used "bill of rights" for dementia patients. Find the previous post here.)
With Valentine’s Day smack dab in the middle of the month, February has love at its core. It’s the month where we show extra love and affection to those closest to us. We hug, kiss and hold hands a little more than other times of the year. When we are on the receiving end, our heart is warmed, ego softened and spirit lifted.
Sadly, those diagnosed with dementia often no longer get to experience these feelings; people with Alzheimer's and related conditions are too often ignored, or worse yet, forgotten. But physical contact is vitally important to a person’s emotional wellbeing. A simple touch lets a loved one know we are there and care for them.
As the Best Friends Dementia Bill of Rights states, every person has a right to have welcomed physical contact, including hugging, caressing and handholding.
(MORE: Dying in America: Care Should Be Kinder)
It’s our duty as staff, family or friends to acknowledge, treat with respect and make those we care for feel loved and wanted. This starts with a simple “Hi” when passing, an acknowledgment by name or a friendly smile when making eye contact from across the room. Too often, we are so busy with our own thoughts and responsibilities, we forget to do the very simple things that may help a person through the day.
When received from those closest to us, human contact on a regular basis helps us feel loved and wanted. This creates purpose, which is an essential part of living.
Not a One-Way Street
Although a person with Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to communicate their love or display their emotions as in the past, their soul still yearns to feel loved and wanted. It’s up to us to be there for them.
Don’t let yourself become desensitized to the unseen needs of our older family and friends. Even if you’re very busy, the next time you pass an older adult, no matter what their situation, give him or her a smile and a friendly greeting. If you’re visiting a loved one, don’t forget to take an extra step by holding their hand, caressing their arm or even engaging in an enriching activity together.
How do you acknowledge or show warmth toward those you’re caring for? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.