General Question

robotmonkeyarm's avatar

Will reading do anything?

Asked by robotmonkeyarm (151 points ) September 13th, 2012 from iPhone

Lets say someone suffers from dementia and forgets EVERYTHING. This person wants to expand their creativity and imagination. Will reading do anything for them or is it just a waste of their time?

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17 Answers

josie's avatar

Reading is to the mind what push ups are to the upper body and core. If you can do it, there has to be benefit.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Well, if they suffer from Alzheimer’s there are types (or perhaps it’s once one reaches a particular stage) that prevent them from remembering what they just read so, at least with that/at that point, reading would probably prove more frustrating/pointless than helpful.

You might want to try having them dictate a short story or something similar. I’m thinking I remember reading that in relation to the above, where that was still possible for (some) people suffering that particular effect and would obviously be a creative outlet.

gailcalled's avatar

Muy mother suffered from senlle dementia for the last four years of her life. It was curious; she read and enjoyed the paper every morning and she always had several novels going, from the inhouse library in her staged living facility.

She spend many hours reading these books, but couldn’t remember the stories. After several weeks had passed she often checked out the same books.

She seemed marginally savvy about the news. Ditto for watching it on TV. It kept her engrossed during the broadcast. Afterwards, there was no memory.

I used to try to imagine what it must have been like. Certainly over the years, I have forgotten that I had seen some movies or read some books but I had nothing like the fog that she wandered through.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t see how it can hurt. Under those circumstances “waste of time” seems like an odd concept. What else would be a better way for a person in that condition to spend time? If reading is possible and comfortable and satisfying, then why not read?

gailcalled's avatar

^^^ Exactly.

filmfann's avatar

One of my teachers died last year. In his obituary, the family mentioned that he had Alzheimer’s, and that he did the New York Times crossword every day. I felt they were trying to send a message that such activities are not a solution, but I am with @Jeruba. Any kind of activity has to have some benefit, even if it is just to fill the day.

JLeslie's avatar

If they enjoy reading I don’t see why anyone would want to prevent them from doing it. Even if they forget it all two minutes later.

Buttonstc's avatar

For several years I was a live-in caregiver for an elderly couple with different types and degrees of dementia.

The gentleman had no short term memory but his reasoning skills and thought processes still intact. He generally read the paper in late afternoon and into immediately preceeding dinner as had been his lifelong habit.

During dinner time he would often bring up various bits of national or international news gleaned from his reading for brief conversation during dinner. And then several minutes later he would bring up the exact same subject for conversation (obviously forgetting it had just been discussed). And this could happen three or four times in a row. But at least it provided a few moments of interesting conversation and kept him engaged with others and the world around him.

It didn’t particularly bother me but his wife would frequently get extremely irritated and tell him with great annoyance that he had just said that five minutes ago etc. bitch…bitch…bitch….

Meanwhile, she spent her days watching TV, (primarily endless reruns of Law and Order and The Closer) or negatively gossiping on the phone with her friends. She rarely had a good thing to say about anyone, family and friends included.

And every once in a while sitting at the kitchen table, she could be seen attempting to use the (princess type) telephone handset to change the TV channel.

Obviously, her immediate short term memory was not as impaired as her husbands (which she took every opportunity to criticize him for) but trying to reason with her was a losing proposition.

But years ago when he realized his memory was slipping, he configured his own method involving jotting down and turning bottles up and down to keep perfect track of his half dozen or so medications. Pretty impressive.

She damn near overdosed on Ambien in spite of the fact that I dispensed her meds in several doses throughout the day. (She had insisted that she be the one to deal with the Ambien in case she woke up during the night and I got overruled by the family).

I think her biggest problem was her refusal to deal with her diminishing capacity. Her husband dealt with it head on and was better off for it. He had even read books about it years ago when he first started slipping so I think reading about his condition and educating himself helped him cope far better.

She insisted on living in total denial and (willful) ignorance IMHO and was a generally miserable and unhappy person. A little reading on her part certainly couldn’t have done any harm.

And guess who I had the most interesting conversations with in spite of the fact that it might be repeated again five minutes later ?

From firsthand experience, I would cast my vote for reading regularly and often in any of life’s circumstances.

(it sure beats out the alternative which leaves one vegetating in front of the boob tube wondering why pushing the number buttons on the phone handset is failing to change the TV channels.)

Reading never did any harm at any age and has many benefits (both tangible and intangible.)

Jeruba's avatar

What an answer, @Buttonstc. I wish I hadn’t run out of points for you. Thank you for a marvelous insight that I (hope I) won’t forget.

Buttonstc's avatar

Thanks for the feedback. It wasn’t the happiest two years of my life and I rarely mention it but it sure taught me a lot. I learned so much about what I want to do to avoid ending up in her shoes.

Lucky for me I’ve always been a prodigious reader from childhood and I have no intentions of changing. Even tho I watch a fair amount of TV, I try to focus more on programming where I learn new stuff (and I’m usually reading while I’m doing so) or Fluthering :)

citizenearth's avatar

Reading is a good activity. Person suffering from dementia still can apply what they have learnt, at least in the short moment after reading.

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Trillian's avatar

I recently read that dancing is good for people with dementia. Like, ballroom, or partner type dancing. You have to coordinate your movements with the music, and if you are a woman it’s even better because you have to compensate your your partner who is leading.
Anyway, apparently it stimulates your brain in places that are associated with memory.

flutherother's avatar

My grandmother read the same book almost every day in the last six months of her life never getting beyond chapter one. She had always been a reader and she remained so right to the end.

Jeruba's avatar

I was thinking, @flutherother, that if you can’t remember what you’ve read, you can get by with a very small library.

flutherother's avatar

Very true. What worries me is I can’t remember what that book was.

Jeruba's avatar

In her last years, in failing health, my mother read almost constantly. She wasn’t having memory problems to any significant degree, but she did sort of lose her sense of connection to the world. She sank back into her childhood favorites, especially the Oz books and the novels of Charles Dickens, and religious readings. They seemed to give her great comfort. I was grateful that something could.

At that stage, utility would seem to be a very remote consideration.

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