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Is there anything I can do to engage my husband who suffers from early stage Alzheimer’s?


Question: Is there anything I can do to engage my husband? He is 78 and suffers from early stage Alzheimer’s. He was always active, had innumerable interests, and was very capable and full of life. His sense of humor is still with him but his short term memory is pretty shot.  Most ideas I come up with he says, “no” to. I don't know if it's all too much of a challenge or something else. He's always been a workaholic. He doesn't care for games or puzzles, and he isn't a reader. He loves having family/friends around (in small doses) but is primarily a spectator, not a participant. I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Dr. Amy: I am sure you must find it challenging to see such changes in a man who was always active and full of life. I have three ideas that you might find helpful. The first is to build on what your husband found interesting in the past. Follow his passion and help him participate in pursuits he always enjoyed, even if it is in a more limited fashion. As you say, he always had innumerable interests. What were they? If he loved to golf, for example, can he go to the driving range once in a while, even just to watch? Watch golf on TV? Play a golf video game? Look at a golf magazine? Shop/window shop for golf gear? Watch a golf movie? Listen to golf on the radio? Give yourself permission to be creative! The second idea is to ask for permission or consent less—don’t give him the opportunity to say no. I do not mean to suggest that you force an activity; rather, simply begin it with enthusiasm and see if he will go along with you. He may be saying no because he cannot process your suggestion. It may not always be because he does not want to do the activity. Starting something—and making it really easy for him to join in— may yield better results. Lastly, I’d like to recommend Virginia Bell and David Troxel’s book, A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care. This is a wonderful resource, full of insights and helpful advice. I think you will find it enormously helpful. Good luck!



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