“Who are you?” is one of the most painful questions when it means that your loved one no longer recognizes you. Yet, it is a moment with which almost every family dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can identify. In the book, Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, co-author Ed Shaw, MD, poignantly describes the moment he experienced this with his wife:
It was a beautiful August morning in Winston Salem, North Carolina, three years ago when my wife, Rebecca, then age 59, and I were engaging in our morning ritual of sipping coffee on the back porch. Without warning, the awful moment I had long dreaded finally arrived: Rebecca, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) six years earlier, looked at me and said, “I have no idea who you are.” Her blank stare confirmed she really meant it. “But Sweetie, I am your husband, Ed,” I replied. “You are my wife. We’ve been married for 33 years.”
For the loved ones of the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, these moments are confusing, heart wrenching, and all too frequent. Later, Shaw describes another of these moments: “We were only separated by a few feet, but it felt as though she were a million miles away.” Thankfully, Shaw turned his experience into a lifeline of love for the person with dementia, their loved ones, and caregivers.
Shaw teamed up with Dr. Gary Chapman, counselor and author of The 5 Love Languages, to show how to sustain emotional connection with a memory-impaired person. In The 5 Love Languages, Chapman describes how individuals communicate and receive emotional love.
The 5 Love Languages are as follows:
- Words of Affirmation: unsolicited words of affection and appreciation
- Quality Time: giving someone your full, undivided attention
- Gifts: a visible symbol of love such as a purchased, handmade, or found tangible gift
- Physical Touch: deliberate touch, conveying your presence to another
For people with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them, the 5 love languages can serve as a way forward in sustaining emotional connections.
Shaw’s book, Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade, not only offers practical tools for loving through the dementia journey but also gives insight into the process of memory loss. It is at once a poignant memoir and a gentle guide through the memory loss journey.
At Weatherly Inn, one of our prized values is “Soul: Find the Connection.” Shaw's work makes that value doable every day. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month as well as Family Caregiver Month. So if your loved one is suffering from memory loss, we encourage you to find the connection. Picking up a copy of Keeping Love Alive as Memory Fades by Edward Shaw, MD may help.
Would you like information about day stay, respite stay or permanent care at Weatherly Inn Memory Care? Call today (253) 752-8550.