Memory Flashcards Help Communication with Alzheimer’s Patients

Unlocking the Silent Prison of Alzheimer's with FlashcardsMemory flashcards can help improve communication with and caregiving for Alzheimer’s patients according to an interesting article I just read called “Unlocking the Silent Prison” by Christine Wicker. The article cites the dementia research of Michelle S. Bourgeois, who is an expert at communicating with people who have dementia and gives examples of how flashcards have helped people talk to Alzheimer’s sufferers.  Here is the gist of why flashcards work:

“Even when dementia is so advanced that people cannot speak, they can read if the words are large enough,” Bourgeois explains. “We know because they smile, make pleasant sounds, and stroke photos of loved ones with captions.”

In contrast, she says, “Spoken words literally go through one ear and out the other. Patients understand, but they can’t store the memory. That’s why they ask the same question again and again.”

Wow, that is a revolutionary discovery to be shared with the many caregivers struggling out there.  I wish I had known about this technique and could have tested it out while my own mother was battling Alzheimer’s, it might have helped while she was in the middle stage of this disease.  The example of the patient refusing to shower who was helped to do so with flashcards hit close to home – my mother did the exact same thing and had to be heavily medicated to accomplish the task.

Flashcards are an exciting advance in Alzheimer’s caregiving and one that definitely needs to be shared.  Read the article to learn more, and I hope it might help with your own caregiving efforts.

Reference/Photo courtesy of Parade Magazine

Links revised 3/16/16

Brought To Our Senses family saga novel by Kathleen H. Wheeler


3 thoughts on “Memory Flashcards Help Communication with Alzheimer’s Patients

  1. Marty

    This is quite true. I used it (and still try) with Mom. Four years ago she could no longer form a sentence, nor did she know anyone’s name. She could read an occasional number, but didn’t seem to comprehend what she was reading. One time I wrote “I LOVE RUTH” on a piece of paper. She read it and broke down crying. It only happened once.
    Now the disease has advanced so far that she no longer recognizes words–as far as I can tell. But I still use a flash card with her name on it and show it to her several times a day as I repeat her name. A couple days ago there was a glimmer of recognition on her face when I did it.
    It’s such a small thing, but any bit of connection is precious.
    An ideal gift for this purpose is the “aquadoodle” they’ve come out with this year. You can write on a white surface with a water pen. It fades when it dries and you can use it over and over again. No mess in case she gets a hold of it.
    Take care.

    1. Kathleen H. Wheeler Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Marty. I am glad to know flashcards really do help in some instances. Really wish I would have known about flashcards five to seven years ago, when it could have helped with my mother.

  2. Pingback: Memory Loss Conference on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease | Brought to My Senses

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