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    Posted July 18, 2014 by
    Toledo, Ohio
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    Aunt With Dementia Teaches Neices How to Communicate With Her

    It was a sad day when Barbara Brock and Trudie Sonnenberg’s elderly Aunt was admitted to a nursing home because she was no longer safe home alone. Their Aunt’s dementia had advanced to the stage of needing assistance and care.

    When family members started visiting their Aunt at the nursing home they often found her to be anxious, frustrated and sometimes angry. Needless to say, their visits were stressful for their Aunt as well as them.

    One day when Barbara went to visit her Aunt she decided to take some old family photos with her in hopes of getting her Aunt to reminisce about some of the people and events in the pictures.

    When Barbara arrived she found her Aunt in an agitated mood. Barbara reached in her purse, took out the old family photos and began showing them to her Aunt. As they looked at the photos together her Aunt’s mood changed immediately. She went from being agitated to a mood of peacefulness and interest. They both had a wonderful visit that day.

    The sisters learned that their Aunt’s long term memory was good. She could name most family members in the old photos and she shared stories about family reunions and get-to-gathers she had enjoyed years ago. But after reviewing the old family photos time after time their visits became stagnate. Their Aunt would still look at the old family photos but didn't seem to be stimulated by them as she was the first few times she saw them.

    Trudie decided the next time she visited her Aunt she would take more recent family photos. Their Aunt’s short term memory was most affected by her memory disease so is was not surprising that she didn’t recognize family members in the more current photos. This visit turned out to be frustrating for both of them.

    The sisters needed to find other things to talk about with their Aunt. Something that would produce the same mood changing affects like the old family pictures did. They decided to create a picture book featuring photos that had common themes to see if these types of pictures would relieve their Aunt’s bouts of anxiety, frustration and fear. They were also searching for a way to spark their Aunt’s interest and create conversations she could enjoy.

    Barbara and Trudie choose popular topics and sometimes used nostalgic pictures. They wrote easy to read, positive story lines below each pictures in hopes this format would serve as conversation starters between them and their Aunt. It worked!!

    It was amazing to watch their Aunt’s mood change to one of pleasant comments, smiles and even laughter. Their Aunt was revealing to them what she enjoyed and how much information she could understand as they looked and talked about the various pictures and stories. In actuality she was teaching them how to communicate with her.

    Barbara and Trudie were so excited about how the home spun pictures affected their Aunt’s mood that they decided to create books that other individuals could use to enhance their visits with their elderly loved ones too.

    Their goal was to develop a way to communicate with the elderly, experience enjoyable visits and stimulate their brains in the process.

    They titled their books “Memory Connections For You and Me” and plan to publish a series of books. The sisters have published four books. Each book contains three popular themes and pictures accompanied by interesting, positive story lines. For example book one contains themes about: Dogs, Hats and Flowers.

    They used their books when they visited their Aunt and were awed by how the pictures and story lines ignited memories for her, plus engaged them in pleasant conversations. The pictures automatically kick started their conversations.

    “Memory Connections For You and Me” opened up avenues of communication that they all enjoyed. Using these beautiful books may enhance every one’s visit with elderly individuals. Each visit created a treasured memory for Barbara and Trudie.

    The sisters looked forward to their visits with their Aunt. The books provided opportunities for their Aunt to share heartfelt stories about her life and also gave her the chance to express her opinions about the picture themes.
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