Entering Alzheimer’s World

Followers of this blog know that J has been rapidly losing her verbal abilities in the last few months. Communication has been very challenging.  A recent column in the Alzheimer’s Reading Room (see link below) has helped enormously. 

It posits that there is a place called “Alzheimer’s World,” where the rules of logic don’t apply. This is the world where it makes sense to use the coffee scoop and put it back in the drawer unwashed.  It is where J puts the bathroom waste basket on the ground, where the dog can root around in it and strew trash everywhere.  It is where all the lunch meat and cheese for the week is placed in the freezer. 

Instead of resisting Alzheimer’s World, the author Bob DeMarco advises to consciously enter the world of your loved one. He further suggests taking a step to the left to demarcate your entry into Alzheimer’s World. 

I have tried this recently to great effect. J and I were getting ready for dinner a couple of nights ago. She was very animated and telling me about something in broken phrases. No matter how hard I listened, I wasn’t getting it. I was becoming frustrated. I stepped to the left and entered Alzheimer’s World. 

I tried to hear things from her point of view. I asked non-specific questions, such as, “That was good, wasn’t it?”  And I began to understand she was telling me about a movie she had watched at her Alzheimer’s Association program. We were both so pleased that we understood one another that we high fived. It was an all too infrequent joyous moment. 

Stepping to the left to enter Alzheimer’s World reminds me of the three steps backward and then three steps forward we take to enter the amidah, the silent standing prayer that is part of Jewish services.  Just as stepping forward physically prepares me for communal silent prayer, steeping to the left now transports me to a place where I can meet J where she is, without judgment or impatience. 


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