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Aunt Alice was more like a big sister than an aunt. I wanted to grow up and be like her and in many ways I am. Entering into her 80th year, there are still traces of the spit fire she had once been although she’s shrunk, uses a cane, and is often forgetful and disoriented. On a recent three-day visit, I watched her interaction with her daughters.

It was a study in opposites. Tiffany, the oldest, was loud and take charge. She came through the door and immediately began chiding her mother for not doing something right. Aunt Alice became defensive and they bickered. Tiffany was a faithful daughter, although contentious, and was often my aunt’s caregiver, but their verbal exchanges left my aunt agitated.

On the other hand, Debbie called her mother every day, bought her groceries, helped her when she got her TV remote out of whack, and handled all of her finances. Her responses to her mother were loving and never short-tempered. Aunt Alice acted rested after being with Debbie.

Both daughters clearly love their mother, but only one of them makes her feel respected.1

Cherished Generation

Our elders should be our cherished generation – even when they become forgetful and feeble. According to tips from the Alzheimer’s Society there are ways to boost the morale of those who may feel they are no longer an important part of society. It’s important to help them feel valued for who they are now and in the past. We need to take time to listen and find things to do together.

Aunt Alice often put herself down when she couldn’t remember something, calling herself stupid and wringing her hands. The Alzheimer’s Society suggests ways to lessen that type of anxiety.

Be kind and reassuring
Never talk over their head as if they are not there
Avoid scolding or criticizing
Try to imagine how you would like to be spoken to

“We all need to feel valued and respected and it is important for a person with dementia to feel that they still have an important part to play in life.” 2

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By Dee Litten Reed. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

1 A Tale of Two Daughters
2 http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=84

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