Monday, August 11, 2008

Baby talk no good for Alzheimer's patients

I don't usually print an article in its entirety but, given experiences during a recent hospitalization, this one really hit home:

Don't treat Alzheimer's patients like they are children, researchers say

August 7, 2008

Researchers from Kansas have offered a rare glimpse into the interior world of Alzheimer's patients with a new study presented at a major international conference in Chicago. The study, while small, is highly suggestive: Key findings indicate that patients - even those who may seem deeply disoriented or cognitively impaired - dislike being patronized or treated as if they are children.

This suggests that a sense of adult identity remains intact in people with dementia, even when individuals aren't able to remember how old they are, where they are, what day it is or which family members are alive and present. How people experience Alzheimer's disease, especially in its latter stages, is a mystery because those with the illness lose the ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

In the Kansas study, researchers tried to get around this hurdle by videotaping 20 elderly men and women living in three nursing homes during the course of a day as aides helped them bathe, brush their teeth, dress, eat and take their medicines, among other activities.

Researchers then analyzed the tapes, assessing how the manner in which staff interacted with patients influenced patients' behavior and the quality of care.

They discovered that when nursing aides communicated in a kind of baby talk for seniors - using a high-pitched sing-song tone, comments like "good girl," diminutives like "honey" and language that assumed a state of dependency ("Are we ready for our bath?") - Alzheimer's patients were twice as likely to resist their efforts to help.

Chicago Tribune
Copyright © 2008, The Baltimore Sun

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