Emotions Linger Long After Memories Fade

June 25, 2018

Caregivers often wonder about a senior with Alzheimer’s emotions.

Caregivers often wonder about a senior with Alzheimer’s emotions. Do emotions linger after memory fails?

If a senior in your family has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia, you might wonder how they are feeling and how much their daily life is impacted by their environment. As the disease progresses and communication skills become more impaired, both things can be difficult to assess.

While dementia experts long believed that people with even more advanced Alzheimer’s and dementia were still capable of experiencing sadness and joy, there wasn’t any conclusive evidence to prove it. That’s why a study conducted at the University of Iowa is so important.

This research was designed to evaluate whether or not emotions linger after memory fails. That’s essential in helping create positive, productive days for adults with dementia.

A Clinical Study of Alzheimer’s, Emotions, and Memory

This study looked at 34 older adults who were split into two groups: one group had early Alzheimer’s disease and the other group was considered to be healthy.

Researchers started by asking each participant how they were feeling and documenting their responses. Once a baseline for their emotional status was set, they proceeded to the next part of the study. This consisted of showing participants eight movie and television scenes considered to be sad. Five minutes after participants were done viewing the scenes, researchers asked each participant what they remembered and how they were feeling. They repeated these questions after 15 minutes and then again 30 minutes later.

After a five-minute rest break, the study resumed.

This time around, researchers showed movie and television clips they believed would induce feelings of joy and happiness. After they were done, participants were asked the same sequence of follow-up questions.

The study seemed to indicate that even though the participants with Alzheimer’s couldn’t remember what they watched in the clips, they did remember how those movie and television scenes made them feel. Their memories were gone, but the emotions lingered. Unfortunately, sadness is the emotion that appears to last the longest.

While this study was a small one, it offers preliminary support for the need to create meaningful days and a positive environment for adults with Alzheimer’s.

The Purposeful Day at Legacy

At Legacy Senior Living, we work hard to ensure that every day is filled with purpose and meaning for our dementia residents. The music, arts, and crafts programs we offer all help residents with memory loss feel successful. Another way we promote meaningful days is with The Simple C storyboard.

This vital part of our dementia care residents’ day provides non-medicated therapies that focus on and honor each resident’s personal story. Working with residents’ families, we select stories and pictures that are meaningful to them.

We also take time to learn more about each resident’s life and hobbies before the disease. This helps us to incorporate those interests into each resident’s plan of care.

Another technique we use is to record trusted voices (friends, family members, and others important to the resident) to use in memory stimulation and to provide verbal reminders for activities of daily living.

Clinical trials show that Simple C offers a variety of benefits:

  • Decreases agitation and anxiety
  • Lowers the risk of wandering
  • Prevents or helps manage incontinence
  • Helps residents overcome sleep challenges common in dementia

Read more about these non-medicated therapies or call us to set up a time to visit a Legacy community near you.