Volunteering with Alzheimer's patients

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Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 186
   Posted 2/8/2006 11:59 PM (GMT -6)   
Hello.  I usually post in the chronic pain forum.  I do not have a family member or friend with Alzheimer's, but I am now doing volunteer work with Alzheimer's patients, which has been incredibly rewarding but also difficult at times.  I want to ask if any of you have any suggestions about how best to communicate with these beautiful people who have been afflicted with Alzheimer's.
I volunteer with my two certified therapy dogs at local nursing homes and hospitals that care for Alzheimer's patients.  My dogs recently received their certification, and it is often magical watching them interact with the residents.  It's amazing because they somehow know who wants to see them and who does not.  Some of the residents recognize that they are dogs and want to cuddle with them and stroke their incredibly soft fur.  When my dogs lightly kiss their faces, they often giggle with laughter.  Interestingly, the residents seem to be communicating with my dogs with complete ease.  When I ask them questions, however, they sometimes have difficulty replying.  Often, the residents are rocking in chairs, and we go down the line and visit each person individually.  When they see the dogs, their faces almost always light up. 
I want to ask all of you if you have any suggestions about how best to communicate with the Alzheimer's patients I visit.  Now, if I see that a person is having difficulty replying, I just tell them a little about my dog, such as his name or favorite food.  Also, at times, I've found that no spoken words are needed with some patients.  They get such joy and love when they're cuddling with my dogs, and that's often the best medicine.
To all of you currently dealing with Alzheimer's in your life, I am sending lots of warm thoughts and prayers your way.  I know that I can only make a very tiny difference in the lives of the patients I visit, but if I help one person feel better, I've accomplished what I set out to do.
Thank you in advance for any input.
Kindly, Ali
"The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear."  Maya Angelou

obs ann
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2006
Total Posts : 679
   Posted 2/9/2006 1:03 AM (GMT -6)   

Ali, it's a pleasure to meet you and an honor.

I've met dog people who've come into the Nursing Home where I used to work, and I've seen that magic that you're talking about.

I would love to see pictures of your dogs. 

It's such a wonderful self-less thing that you are doing, and all the more so with your CFS.

I think, from my own personal experience, that what these folks need most, is a loving physical touch. I'm afraid in Nursing Homes, there is little or none of this.That is the one thing they get so very little or any of, unless they have empathetic family visiting.  Just a hand on their shoulder or holding a hand, gently letting them know you're there.

Gentle Hugs are great.  I used to just "hold" them.  And only God knows sometimes what power there is in that.  Just to be held.

With aphasia, words are hard to understand or to speak, if at all, but the loving touch of another caring human is something that has even kept premie babies alive.

God Bless you Ali and I'm sure the Pros on this board will be able to share a lot more with you.

I'd love to see ya's at work. 

Late Neuro-Lyme & CFIDS. 

Elite Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 24909
   Posted 2/9/2006 6:21 AM (GMT -6)   
I look after my parents and they have a dog that they love and enjoy.......I was always a hugger to my patients as well in the NH or retirement homes.........It was not often that I saw family come to see their loved ones .......it was sometimes quite sad..........thanks for you beautiful and heartwarming post .......God Bless..........Lyn
Contribute today to support Healing Well Forums...Donate @
I know there are great things out there for you .....and it is within your power to make them happen ..I believe in all of you and know you have what it takes to follow your dreams..Let that strong Spirit of yours be your guide.........Lyn 

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