Dreams have been a subject of interest and fascination for hundreds of years. Perhaps you’ve been puzzled about what a particular dream meant or you’ve wondered why you dream at all. Why do some people have no difficulty remembering their dreams, while others recall dreams only occasionally or not at all? A dream can include many thoughts and emotions including joy, sadness, confusion, or great fear. When a dream becomes very intense, you might wake up laughing, crying, or feeling disoriented. It may take several minutes to shake it off, but once you’ve started your morning routine, the feelings often dissipate as you start your day. For people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, a similar loss of sense in their time and place isn’t something that they can easily shake off.
Perhaps that explains why agitation seems to be more common in the morning, although it can occur at any time during the day. For some seniors, this comes from not really grasping the nature and purpose of their surroundings. They may wonder, “Who is this person? Why am I here?” Consequently, they feel alone and frightened or even abandoned by family. They may become difficult or refuse care. It’s important to calm and reassure them about their surroundings and routines, just as you would with any family member waking up from a troubling dream.
The Hebrew Home at Riverdale has developed a creative and thoughtful pilot program to help residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia break through “the morning fog of forgetfulness that can often cause them agitation and fear.” Prerecorded messages from family members are played on a laptop or tablet. Relatives who take part are asked to say good morning, use short memory-triggering personal anecdotes, and remind the residents that attendants will be helping them get dressed and ready for the day.
The idea for this “video therapy” came from the 2004 movie 50 First Dates, in which a brain-injured woman played by Drew Barrymore loses her memory every day and a suitor played by Adam Sandler uses videos to remind her about him.
Charlotte Dell, director of social services at Hebrew Home, says that the video becomes part of the morning routine. “We’re looking to see if we can set a positive tone for the day without using drugs.” The program is currently limited to residents in the early and moderate stages of dementia who are likely to recognize the people in the video and understand what they say. But because of the varying degree of memory loss, this technique may work beautifully for one resident, but another may find it confusing or feel wary of trying new things.
Alternatives to prerecorded video messages include: a CD player at bedside with morning and nighttime music of the resident’s choice, a body pillow or clothing item sprayed with a loved one’s cologne or perfume, or a Build-a-Bear with a prerecorded message from the loved one. Loading a tablet or smart phone with familiar pictures, music, or even videos of silly pets or laughing babies found on a site such as YouTube are also effective ways of redirecting someone’s attention. It may take some trial and error to find the best tool, but your efforts, combined with person-centered care will pay off in the long run. Have a wonderful September, Jamie Lanners, Housing Manager
Idea from Adam Sandler film used to soothe dementia patients. Retrieved April 17, 2015, from
The Hebrew Home at Riverdale. www.riverspringhealth.org Theison, A.K., Geisthoff, U.W., Förstl, H., & Schröder, S.G. (2009). Agitation in the morning: symptom of depression in dementia? Int J Geriatr Psychiatry,