Smile. Don't Argue.

June 29, 2023

“As people lose the ability to communicate, they still read us very, very well,” said Allison Lindauer, an associate professor of neurology with the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine. NY Times 6/23/23

As my son would say, "Facts." I’m so happy to have this observation from a medical professional. I’ve been talking about heightened sensitivity being the by-product of waning cognition for years, since experiencing it with my mother. She was a tough lady before Alzheimer’s took hold who often responded to my reactions through narrowed eyes. “You’re so sensitive,” she’d say, not a compliment. Other than securing employment for countless therapists and support groups, it also made her post-Alzheimer’s vulnerability that much more notable.

Within a few years of her diagnosis it was as if her face had physically changed. Her eyes were often wide with wonder and searching for clues in the countenance of others. She would flinch around yelling and become misty eyed sensing my sadness on days when grief got the better of me. One time, no longer having access to language, she even gently stroked my hair.

It is very important for carepartners to appreciate this increased sensitivity because as the article outlines, it can make a big difference in your time with your loved one. You don’t want to inadvertently cause agitation with big gestures or speaking too loudly. Face-to-face communication is always best. A simple smile looking in to someone’s eyes has tremendous value to a person feeling isolated by the illness. And if you can reach out and hold their hand, even better. Slowing down, minimizing distractions and just being with the person, sometimes it’s as simple as that.