In the mid-1990s, Virginia Bell and David Troxel developed the Best Friends approach to Alzheimer's eldercare. Their vision was to provide caregivers with a way to interact with people with Alzheimer's that creates a positive experience for everyone.
If you're caring for parents with Alzheimer's, the Best Friends approach to eldercare could be a lifesaver for you. The basic idea behind it is that when caring for parents, what they need most is simply a "Best Friend" who is understanding, positive, and reassuring. Bell and Troxel like to say that Best Friends have a knack for handling difficult situations in creative ways. Here are some examples of how you can display knack while caring for parents, based on Bell and Troxel's website:
Go With the Flow
Eldercare is about making your parent happy, safe, and comfortable. It's not about correcting them when they're confused. For instance, if your parent says, "That Babe Ruth sure can play ball!" it might be tempting to note that Babe Ruth no longer plays baseball in the hopes that you can help your parent become less confused. However, this approach to caring for parents is not as helpful as simply saying, "I like Babe Ruth, too!" Just go with the flow and enter your parent's world.
Let Go of Perfectionism
When providing eldercare, choose activities that your parent will enjoy and don't worry about whether they're done correctly. For example, if your parent has always enjoyed playing cards but cannot follow the rules of a card game anymore, try sorting the cards into suits and colors. If your parent likes helping around the house, a great eldercare activity is to have your parent fold laundry or sort socks - as long as you don't worry about whether it's done perfectly. What matters is whether your parent is having fun and feeling useful.
Show Respect above All Else
While caring for parents can be challenging, it's important to put your parent's respect and dignity above all else. Remember that your "Best Friendship" is an adult relationship that consists of adult activities and communication, even if your parent has Alzheimer's. There's no need to play games meant for kids or to speak to parents as if they are children. Maintaining dignity and respect is at the heart of the Best Friends eldercare approach.
What are your thoughts about this approach to caring for parents with Alzheimer's? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D