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Emotional memory and Alzheimer disease

It is a well known fact that short term memory loss and cognitive decline are the distinguishing features of Alzheimer disease (AD), however, currently there is some speculation that recall may be encouraged when accompanied by emotional stimuli.
Due to the increasing number of older adults being diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, the need to find meaningful and enjoyable activities in which people with AD successfully engage is important for providing as good a quality of life as possible, while concurrently preventing behavioral difficulties that often accompany the disease.
As of 2008, there were approximately 30 million people with dementia worldwide. By 2050, it is projected that this figure will have increased to over 100 million.
This increase will represent an enormous strain on families, healthcare and social service providers, and the nurses who care for patients with AD. Agitation and other behavioral problems often accompany AD, which increases this strain. It is imperative that healthcare researchers find effective means to help address behavioral problems for those with AD and their caregivers. By providing emotionally engaging, stimulating, and, most of all, meaningful activities for adults with AD, agitation and accompanying behavioral problems may be diminished thereby improving the quality of life for individuals with AD and their caregiver.
Furthermore, throughout much of the course of the illness, those with Alzheimer's disease remain very capable of giving and receiving love, of sharing warm interpersonal relationships, and of participating in a variety of meaningful activities with family and friends.
The capacity to experience in many ways the dampened rationality of the person with Alzheimer's disease enhances emotional sensitivity and means that the person tends to communicate more on an emotional level. The person is very aware of the emotions and moods of others, and often very susceptible to picking up these moods. If a happy and light hearted mood is set by the caregiver, this spreads to the person. Conversely, in long-term care, if one resident on a dementia unit becomes upset, it doesn't take long to spread to others. When we are angry or frustrated they will feel it and may also become upset. Be aware of facial expression, voice tone and language, so as not to convey any negative personal emotion to the person with Alzheimer's Disease .
There are many activities that encourage non-verbal emotional expression. For example:
• Caring for plants or pets (express feelings of caring, affection, satisfaction, responsiveness from living things);
• Listening to favourite music or singing (recalls the feelings associated with the music);
• Repetitive, physical activity such as walking, digging the garden, or shredding papers for recycling (provide a release for feelings of frustration);
• Holding hands, hugging, brushing hair, rubbing on hand cream or other adult uses of touch (acceptable, adult expressions of caring and concern);
• Simple household chores, such as dusting, drying dishes, or preparing vegetables (enhances feelings of usefulness and self-worth).
It is important to let people know that you are aware of their feelings. Read non-verbal cues (e.g. facial expression) and the tone of the voice to determine the nature of the feelings, then check it out with them by saying something like, "John, you seem to be very upset. Is that true?" Then, "Are you upset because..........?" Even if you can't determine the source of the upset, letting the person know that you realize how they are feeling often helps reduce distress.
Emotional memory
Emotional memory is the memory of the feelings associated with an event, as opposed to the facts of the event.
Emotional memory is a persisting asset of persons with ADRD. This asset can be capitalized on by ensuring that activities and self-care routines have positive emotional associations, thereby encouraging future participation. Previous happy emotional memories can be triggered by using reminiscence materials and other positive emotional cues such as favourite songs, pieces of clothing, pictures, or foods.


  • Charlene Collins ~ Atlanta Family Health Examiner 5 years ago

    Good job! Very interesting.

  • Marlene Davis 5 years ago

    Very intesting article, insightful and very informative.

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