Caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelmed by the ravages of the disease, and it’s easy to wonder if any of the support they offer provides any comfort at all to a person who can’t remember it. A new study has found that even among those people with Alzheimer’s who have experienced extensive memory loss, the emotions associated with memories linger long after the memory itself is gone.
Emotion without Memory in People with Alzheimer’s
The study looked at a group of 17 people with Alzheimer’s, then compared them to a group of people without the disease. Each group viewed 20-minute clips of movies the study’s authors identified as either happy or sad.
After the movie, participants were asked to recall details from the movie, in addition to logging their emotions. The group of people with Alzheimer’s quickly forgot the content of the films. Their emotional reactions to the films, however, continued to linger 30 minutes after viewing the films. Sad feelings tended to last longer than happy ones, and patients who remembered the least about the films had the longest lasting feelings of sadness.
Tips for Caregivers
Edmarie Guzman-Velez, a University of Iowa doctoral student in clinical psychology, says that the study can offer hope to caregivers that their actions really do matter. People with Alzheimer’s continue to have an emotional life, even when they can’t remember the memories that gave rise to their emotions. Elderly residents are vulnerable to abuse in nursing homes, particularly when their caregivers do not believe that they remember the abuse. This study demonstrates the emotional toll and lasting effects of elder abuse.
Caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s can tap into their clients’ emotional capacities by playing music, dancing, watching movies together, and finding other ways to offer loving support. Media that once yielded happy emotions—such as a much-beloved movie—might be just as helpful even for a person who no longer remembers the actual content of the media.
Alzheimer patients feel emotion long after memory has faded. (2014, September 25). Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/11120439/Alzheimer-patients-feel-emotion-long-after-memory-has-faded.html
Emotional life lingers for Alzheimer’s patients, even as memory fades. (2014, September 29). Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2014/09/29/emotional-life-lingers-for-alzheimers-patients-even-as-memory-fades
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