Right brain, left brain what does that mean? Well, when you are a family living with Alzheimer’s disease this is key information. The hippocampus is the part of your brain that is known as your learning and memory center. It is where your way finding, your time awareness, learning and memory are stored. When a person is living with Alzheimer’s disease there will be a big change in this part of your brain. The hippocampus is one of the first parts of the brain to suffer damage.
The right side of your brain is where you store automatic speech, rhythm and music. This is a gift when you really think about. As the disease progresses remember you focus on what they can still do. Well if you can sing a song to your loved one or with your loved one, I consider that a gift. It could become a time of pleasure and enjoyment just to sit and listen to music or sing together. The person living with Alzheimer’s disease retains rhythm on the right side of their brain. They may be able to recite a prayer, maybe the Lord’s Prayer or recite the 23rd Psalm. This is why they can sing a certain hymn, not missing a word. Please know this is also where swear words are retained and racial slurs. Many times a person living with this disease will use swear words and racial slurs and have no regard to the offense the word may cause. You need to remember the person living with this disease has no impulse control. Families, caregivers and communities need to understand it is the disease not the person.
The left side of your brain is where formal speech and language are stored. Alzheimer’s disease affects the left side of your brain first. It attacks asymmetrically, generally attacking the left side first. This is why a person living with this disease will have problems word finding. It is very frustrating not only for the caregiver but the person living with Alzheimer’s disease. When your loved one is trying to find a word you can help by asking them to describe the word (“what does it look like”? or you may say “show me”…..). Remember, when you the caregiver gets frustrated your loved one will get even more frustrated. They can hear the tone of your voice and see the expression on your face. When you feel anxious, just step back and take those three deep breaths we have talked about in past articles. Your loved one may have trouble comprehending what you are saying. Remember as the disease progresses they miss about every fourth word you say.
Right brain, retain on the right and left brain, lose on the left! Right brain they retain rhythm and left brain they lose language.
I recently attended a Caregiver Conference given by Alzheimer’s North Carolina, Inc. One of the speakers for the day was Len Lecci, PhD. He is a Professor of Psychology at UNCW and the Director of Clinical Services for MARS Memory-Health Network. He gave a wealth of information, but the one thing he said made an impression on me was the importance of diet and exercise. He shared how the impact of diet made a tremendous effect on our brain. He shared that we need to keep our mind engaged daily, we should keep doing and learning new things. It is true, if you do not use it, you lose it! He encouraged us to avoid, or consume in moderation, fast foods, fried foods, red meat, butter, margarine, cheese, sweets and pastries. He encouraged a diet of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, beans and berries. He said. “Turn off the TV, save your life.” How does this go along with Alzheimer’s disease? Genetics plays a role in this disease but studies also reveal lifestyle does as well (diet, exercise and staying mind sharpe).
I have decided I am going to stay on top of my health. Why don’t you join me!! Hope you have a Best Day Ever.
Lesia Henderson is a Positive Approach to Care Independent Trainer and Sampson County Department of Aging Family Caregiver Support Specialist.