An Open Letter to Dr Richard Taylor

Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 11/4/2010
Those of you who follow this blog know how taken I was with the speech given by Dr. Richard Taylor on Alzheimer's from the Inside.  I do a good deal of volunteer work and much of it is with memory care facilities.  I struggle to engage the patients with whom I visit and have written an open letter to Dr. Taylor for advice.  I thought I would share it with our readers.

Dear Dr. Taylor,


I have long admired you from afar and recently had the pleasure of hearing you speak at a foundation benefit.  I found out that I have been mistakenly telling my friends and readers to compile scrapbooks and photo albums and keep them in the rooms of their loved ones who have been diagnosed with dementia.

You told us to help you, and others like you, to cope with the present (not the past) and to always tell you the truth. When you insist that mom is coming to visit, we shouldn’t just “go along” and say how nice that will be. We should say something like, “Dad, you and I have had disagreements about this several times. You believe that mother is alive (and I hope you are right) but I believe she passed away five years ago.  Just in case she doesn’t show up tomorrow, I’ll bring some photos and we can talk about how much we both miss her”. 

I need a little more specific guidance if you will share with me just a bit more wisdom. I volunteer regularly at memory care facilities. I might bake cookies or just visit with patients while I am there. In the past I have met briefly with some attending caregivers to give me a little background about those I will be with.  I have tried to make conversation using information that I have been given. But this is usually about family members and ancient history.   The conversations often hit the wall and I feel as though I have made my new friends uncomfortable and more aware of “forgetting”.

What should I do and say when I am volunteering in these situations? If I were visiting with you now. in five years or  another 10, how would you wish me to interact with you?

With great admiration,
Kathy Harmon
Great Places, Inc.

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1 Comment

    • Nov 15 2010, 2:31 PM Norm McNamara
    • Frightened Little Boy As I tell my tale of Alzheimer`s, Through smiles and heartfelt joy, When really, somewhere deep inside I`m just a frightened little boy, I’ve faced many things in my life, Some things too hard to tell, But Alzheimer`s and all it brings, Makes my life, a living hell, Every day a piece of me, Is lost, forever gone, It won’t give up I know, Until memories I have none, So when you see and hear me, Chatting about my day, My head rocking back with laughter, And smiling all the way, Please spare a thought of who`s inside, Behind the warmth and joy, Sitting there with head in hands, Is just a frightened little boy

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