Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alzheimer's conference in Chicago: Elderspeak is unnecessary and unwelcome

The Alzheimer’s Association is having an International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease 2008 (acronym ICAD) this week (late July 2008), with a main website here.

ABC News recently reported that caregivers should not talk in a condescending fashion to Alzheimer’s patients, and should not even give in to the idea that by doing so they are behaving in a more “caring” or emotionally appropriate fashion. The story is “Baby Talk Irritates Alzheimer’s Patients: Caregivers for the elderly should avoid certain patterns of speech, new research says,” by Allyson T. Collins of the ABC Medical Unit, link here . The article is particularly critical of the use of “elderspeak” or “baby talk” in talking to persons with Alzheimer’s. It seems better to try to communicate with the person as a real adult.

Yet, one hears tales of caregivers disabling cars so that the elderly can't drive them, and of trying all kinds of manipulations. "Don't correct" someone in talking to them, they say.

The Los Angeles Times also has a story “News from the Alzheimer’s Conference in Chicago,” July 30, link here. There are some interesting observations. Persons who are married during midlife may have a lower rate of progression to Alzheimers. But so do people who have demanding intellectual activity in midlife, especially creative activity, and this may be more common with introverts.

Our culture’s attitude on aging has changed. A couple generations ago, there was a belief that people should live out a natural life span. To extend it with medicine requires a new kind of emotional investment and self-concept not only from caregivers but from the elderly person himself or herself. Much is accomplished with recommended medical screenings throughout life, but these may involve treatments the “emotional” consequences of which earlier generations would not have accepted and many “more independent” people have trouble accepting today.

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