Creatively Connecting with an Alzheimer's Patient

Sometimes I look into her eyes and wonder what she is thinking. I ask and get one-word answers or worse yet, something I don't understand at all. I wonder if I will ever connect with her again.

How can I communicate with my mother-in-law who is living with Alzheimer's? How can I find a positive emotion in her or make her smile? How can I engage her while enjoying it, too? These are all questions I asked myself, and only recently found some answers.

The answers were inside of me. I had everything I needed to engage her within me. I didn't need to read books or watch videos on how to do it. I just needed to rediscover what connected us in the first place.

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Focusing on our shared interests

This began a new phase of connection and engagement, the coupling of her interests and mine. What do I mean? I am a wildlife photographer, and my mother-in-law loves wildlife.

Whenever I need to connect with her, I can pull out my phone and show her my photos of owls, eagles, foxes, and deer. I can show her my prints or the calendar I made. I love showing off my work and she loves looking at it. We both enjoy this creative expression and find a good place and healthy space for laughter and smiles.

Leaning on my own skills

Or how about this? I am an actor who loves to improvise scenes and use impressions. I can do a pretty good impression of her father and every time she hears it she exclaims with a smile, "Oh, that's my daddy!"

I knew him in his later years, but evidently his way of speaking and mannerisms were about the same his entire life. Whenever I go into this voice, she smiles, and we engage.

Sometimes at the dinner table, I will improvise a scene as her late husband. He was a military doctor and full colonel in the Unites States Army, and always had a unique way of describing his workdays at supper. He would come to life when he would talk about patients who make him laugh or frustrated him and I can do that routine and it makes her laugh.It makes me laugh, too.

Get creative with these ideas

These are 2 creative ways that I engage my mother-in-law that are fun for the both of us. I don't have to struggle to pull things out of her.They work because they are a part of me that connects with her.

What about you? How can you creatively connect with your loved one?

Here are some ideas:

  • Storytelling: Individual improvisation or remembrances using old photos, watching a show together
  • Visual arts: Photography, drawing, painting, scrapbooking, coloring books
  • Performance arts: Dance, mime, singing, playing an instrument, acting scenes with others, comedy
  • Short field trips: Go to places that you all enjoy, such as the beach, mountains, or a scenic vista with wildlife and sunsets

If you are not sure how to begin, then jot down everything that you like to do or are good at. Think about hobbies, interests, and how you spend your free time. Is there anything there that you can share with your loved one? What points of interest align? What can get them to emote, laugh, smile, engage? Think out of the box and see where your creativity leads you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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