Spouses of Alzheimer's patients get coaching

Posted at 6:15 PM, Nov 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-03 18:15:00-05

Right now more than five million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to increase to more than seven million in 10 years. Most of the caregivers are spouses. A new study looks at communication between married couples affected by Alzheimer’s, with some surprising results.

Hy Rothman is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Arline Rothman, Hy’s wife, tells her husband, “I love you so much. You know that?”

A few years ago, the Rothmans were part of a study on maintaining caring relationships in spouses affected by Alzheimer’s. Researchers visited couples in their homes for 10 weeks and coached them on ways to better communicate.

Christine Williams, DNSc, Professor and Researcher at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, said, “Just to try to encourage them to talk rather than put them on the spot for something that they might have to answer ‘no I don’t remember that.”

Arline said, “Show love, show understanding. Don’t get angry at them.”

When spouses connect in a caring way, there can be heartwarming moments in return.

Professor Williams explained, “I think it’s very hopeful that people were engaging and were succeeding and they also reported that they were satisfied with their marriages.”

As a result of this study, Professor Williams is working to develop a formal training program for couples dealing with Alzheimer’s. That training program should be widely available in a couple of years. Williams says it has been tested, but results haven’t been published yet.

There's a yearly walk in Huntsville to benefit Alzheimer's support.  You can click here to learn more.