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Alzheimer & Dementia Care

Reading and Writing for Alzheimer’s Patients

Alzheimer’s or dementia, a disease that erodes on a person’s mental capability by gradually eating away the brain cells responsible to receive, comprehend and store information. As a result, people with Alzheimer’s slowly lose their memory. This affects their ability to comprehend things and also, makes it difficult for them to communicate with the people around. Alzheimer’s or dementia is a progressive disease. The symptoms do not show overnight. The signs initially are mild with symptoms worsening in later stages as the disease advances. The Alzheimer’s Association has broken down the stages of the disease into three:

  1. Mild Alzheimer’s (Early Stage)
  2. Moderate Alzheimer’s (Middle Stage)
  3. Severe Alzheimer’s (Late Stage)

The phase before the diagnosis, known as preclinical Alzheimer’s, starts years before any sign of the disease. Changes in brain cells already start taking place in the preclinical phase; however, these do not show. These stages suggest that the symptoms of dementia worsen gradually and for a patient with say Mild Alzheimer’s (Early Stage), functioning normally daily may not be a difficult task. In this article, we will take you through the effects of reading and writing on Alzheimer’s patients through different stages of the disease and their benefits on the patients, if any.

Can Alzheimer’s patients read? Of course, they can, especially in the initial stage where the signs of the disease are considered negligible. The early-stage may only affect the patient with slight memory lapses such as having difficulty in remembering names when meeting new people or having to forget where objects were kept. Instead, in the initial stage, reading may help to counter the symptoms of dementia. Mental stimulation can reduce the progress of the disease. 

The human brain is an activity-dependent organ. Keeping it active and challenged can slow down its decline in Alzheimer’s patients. Reading requires taking information through visual input, comprehending it and further, forming opinions regarding it. Stimulating these parts of the brain can keep the neural pathways involved in these activities to stay intact longer for dementia patients. Mentally challenging books can be helpful for patients in the early stage since they wouldn’t have much problems understanding. However, patients with moderate Alzheimer’s may find it a little complex.

Moderate Alzheimer’s is the longest stage in the disease. The signs start aggravating in this stage with the patients showing greater symptoms of emotional distress. Forgetfulness increases and the patients may have difficulty comprehending and familiarizing with basic tasks. Alzheimer’s patients in the middle stage start showing signs of withdrawal and may also have mood swings. They may quit on hobbies that interested them before as a result of the withdrawal. During this phase, reading to the patients might be encouraging. Books that may bring some fond memories from the past can help alleviate the mood and bring back good memories. Since their level of understanding has started deteriorating, going through the books with them and assisting them through it can also be helpful. It would be better to get the patients to read simpler books that are not too complex to understand. Books that are more visually appealing can spark the dying interest in such patients.

In the later stages of dementia, the symptoms worsen. Communication becomes very difficult and comprehension slows down. Patients in this stage need assistance round the clock. Often patients during this phase require a caregiver to constantly help in the day to day activities. Reading to such patients can be soothing for them and can help them take their minds off the stresses of the disease.

Writing, a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease! 

Dementia or Alzheimer’s affects a person’s cognitive and motor skills. As the disease advances, writing impairment becomes evident. The brain is unable to send signals to the arm failing to write. Patients in later stages of the disease have been observed to find difficulty in signing off their names. Some have been noted to only manage to scribble lines when trying to write notes to their loved ones. 

In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, when the disease isn’t as aggravated, putting pen to paper may be therapeutic. Being diagnosed with a disease is a huge blow. One needs emotional strength to absorb the news, understand the consequences and muster the strength to resolve to fight through it. 

Writing down your feelings in a journal is known to declutter the pile of thoughts in the brain. Putting your feelings down on the paper can help ease the emotional turmoil inside. During the initial stage, having a journal as your friend can be calming. It can also keep the motor skills in practice that may delay the signs of deterioration in later stages.

However, as the disease gradually worsens, writing may become difficult for Alzheimer’s patients. Changes in handwriting are the signs indicating caregivers that the disease has started worsening. In later stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, the ability to write may leave the patient altogether.

Alzheimer’s is an incurable disease. The symptoms can only be slowed down through medications and brain-stimulating exercises. Reading and writing are those activities that help manage the symptoms and delay the worsening of Alzheimer’s disease.

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