Sharing Caring

Monday, April 19th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (online) has verified what many in the elder care field have always "known": Persons with memory loss feel emotions related to their sad or happy experiences and retain those feelings even after their memory of the actual event has faded.

When researchers at the University of Iowa showed sad and happy movie clips to patients with memory loss, they found that although the patients could not recall what they had watched, they did continue to feel the emotions prompted by the clips.

In a news release, lead author Justin Feinstein said, "… both emotions [sad and happy] lasted well beyond [the subject's] memory of the films." He continued, "A simple visit or phone call from family members might have a lingering positive influence on a patient’s happiness even though the patient may quickly forget the visit or phone call. On the other hand, routine neglect from staff at nursing homes may leave the patient feeling sad, frustrated, and lonely even though the patient can’t remember why."

"Intuitively, I’ve always known this due to my experience as the activity director of an adult day-care center with an Alzheimer’s unit and from my work as a nursing home exercise provider," said SFA president Janie Clark, MA, who was not involved in the study. "But it is very good to see it confirmed through research."

Feinstein wrote, "Here is clear evidence showing that the reasons for treating Alzheimer’s patients with respect and dignity go beyond simple human morals."

Clark added, "Even when elders have lost much long- and short-term memory, they still know when they’re receiving kindness and loving attention."

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