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Trends in aging: Stay connected with a person in pearl stage of dementia

By By Wendy McHaney
July 25, 2014 at 2:25 a.m.

Wendy McHaney

Today's column continues through the Senior Gems approach to care, based on the Allen Cognitive Disability Theory. My previous columns discussed the first five stages - sapphire, diamond, emerald, amber and ruby.

This next series of columns will explore the final, late stage of dementia - also known as the pearl stage - with today's column focusing on connecting with a pearl.

At this stage of dementia, traditional communication methods are not effective. Pearls are mostly isolated and away, but are still capable of having moments of connection. Always be friendly and warm, and even if there is no response, continue to talk to them. Never act as if they are not there.

The following are ways to help make meaningful connections with a pearl:•  Sing, hum and move along to music that is relevant to them.

•  Help rock in a rocking chair or glider chair.

•  Make a mobile with things they are interested in, like flowers or playing cards.

•  Wrap them in something warm, such as a blanket fresh out of the dryer.

•  Comfort them with touch, like putting on lotion or holding hands.

•  Provide them with simple tastes or smells.

Since sense of smell is still somewhat intact, aromatherapy can be a great tool to help a pearl relax. It also uses their sense of smell to create a positive, personal connection and bring back some positive memories. Aromatherapy can lower anxiety and stress levels and improve mood as well as quality of life. Lavender and chamomile are excellent scents to help with relaxation.

Rubbing a pearl's hands with lavender or chamomile lotion is a great way to use aromatherapy as well as make a physical connection. Incorporating a familiar and happy scent from a pearl's past, such as the fragrance of baking cookies or roses if the pearl was an avid baker or gardener, can also help the pearl to relax, lower stress levels and bring back a familiar memory.

The next column will address validation therapy and pain management for a pearl.

If you would like an opportunity to help support the Alzheimer's Association, Senior Helpers and the Victoria Generals Baseball team will be hosting a fundraiser at the game Thursday at Riverside Stadium. The fundraiser benefits the local Walk to End Alzheimer's.

The tailgate party starts at 6 p.m. with the game at 7:30 p.m. Call Senior Helpers at 361-894-8901 for tickets to the event. Cost is $6 per person.

Sources: SH Franchising Senior Gems training materials

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit seniorhelpers.com/victoria.

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