Wednesday, January 13, 2016

THE ETIQUETTE OF ALZHEIMER'S AS TOLD BY DAN GASBY TO YVONNE


Next week, B. and Dan will be doing a talk and signing about their book, Before I Forget, on Tuesday, January 19th at Barnes and Noble, Broadway and 82nd Street at 7pm. I’m looking forward to seeing them, getting the book and listening to the talk. But, I wondered what would I or should I say if B. doesn’t remember me. Do I introduce myself? Do I make her remember that I’m one of the twins?

I shared my thoughts with Dan and asked if I could do a Q&A. I sent some questions and he gave me some answers, as only Dan can in his wise, funny and poignant way.



“Everything I say next is meant to help you understand the importance of making a person with Alzheimer’s feel comfortable. You have to find humor in tough situations or they become unbearable. So with that in mind, here are some of my tips.”


What is the major “don’t” when seeing B.?
Don’t say, “Do you remember me?” or jump into a reminiscence of past times together; she might not be able to follow you there. People with Alzheimer’s have enough don’ts and deficits. Their brains are already dissing them; they don’t need you to do so, too. It’s not about you; it’s about her. Be there in that moment. Be present. Just relax--she doesn’t need your tension, she needs your attention.

What is the major “do” when seeing B. and you?
Come bearing jokes…and if you don’t have any good ones to tell, at least consider bringing me some scotch. In all seriousness, any light you can bring to anyone wandering around in this disease’s darkness is a blessing.

How comfortable is she with handshakes, hugs, can this cause anxiety?
B. is a natural hugger; thank G-d that Alzheimer’s hasn’t erased that in her. It’s tricky, as everyone has a different personality and therefore a different response. But generally speaking, what you may see as hugging an old friend she more than likely will experience as a stranger approaching and encroaching on her space. You wouldn’t want some stranger coming up to you and pawing you, would you? Put yourself in her shoes and you’ll walk straight.

As an old friend, if she doesn’t recognize me – do I introduce myself as if we’ve never met? Do I simply state my name?
No one will ever take offense, especially those of us of a certain graying population, at someone saying hello by introducing or re-introducing themselves by name.  How many people do you see in your daily life whose face is familiar, but you just can’t quite grasp their name?  Give her the chance to say, “I remember you.”  It’s not something she gets to say as often as either of us would like.

As a caregiver, what should others do in public situations such as a book signing?
Bathe. No, seriously, it’s going to be crowded and loud and a little overwhelming for both of us, so a simple hello, a smile, and a quick thank you for ‘sharing our story’ or some other pleasantry (or joke) would be much appreciated.

For more information and how you can join the fight, click here.

And lastly, as B. used to say at the end of every one of their shows, “Thank you, Dan.”


5 comments:

Lynda said...

Great and touching piece. Many people don't know what to do or say when someone is suffering from any illness and often times say and do the wrong things. This post is just what we all need to know how to handle Alzheimer. Thanks for writing this.

joann scott said...

Great Post. Good information for all of us who are aging and have friends and family who are aging as well. Good job Yvonne.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a puddle of tears right now.Thank you for sharing B's story with your friends.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Yvonne. I was not sure to go to the book signing for fear of just what you were asking about. Dan is incredible! Looking forward to seeing you there

Anonymous said...

Good information. Thank you.