An elderly man surprising an elderly woman with a gift of chocolate.Would you consider giving your loved one with Alzheimer’s some bacon? What about a tackle box? How about some chocolate? According to an article published recently by the New York Times, these items could help more than you think.

According to studies, “creating positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer’s patients diminishes distress and behavior problems.” In fact, any experiences that bring comfort could be beneficial for patients. If an experience such as eating chocolate brings positive emotions in a patient, it can decrease stress and improve behavior. Comforting foods improve behavior and mood because they send messages they can still understand: it feels good! As an added benefit, these approaches do not involve pharmacological means to manage behaviors, avoiding the side effects of such medications. In one case, a woman with Alzheimer’s found a baby doll, which she started to carry around with her. She rocked, caressed, and fed her “baby” and recalled raising her own children and the joy she experienced taking care of them.

Small changes to the environment can also greatly affect seniors with Alzheimer’s. Brightening the lights, for example, can decrease depression and cognitive deterioration. One facility took a creative approach to manage patients who wander into elevators: They installed a black carpet in front of the elevators to mimic a hole in the ground that prevented Alzheimer’s patients from going near it.

Providing relief, training, or breaks to the caregiver of the patient with Alzheimer’s can also help the patient’s mood and cognitive function.  The mood of the caregiver greatly impacts the mood of the patient and as one specialist put it, “what’s good for the caregiver is good for the patient.”

So give your loved one with Alzheimer’s that chocolate! Put on their favorite perfume. Turn up the lights and let them participate in activities they once enjoyed!

 

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