In many ways the dampened rationality of the person with Alzheimer's Disease enhances emotional sensitivity and means that the person tends to communicate more on an emotional level. The person is very aware of the emotions and moods of others, and often is very susceptible to picking up these moods. If a happy and lighthearted mood is set by the caregiver, this spreads to the person. Conversely, in long-term care, if one resident on a dementia unit becomes upset, it doesn't take long to spread to others. When we are angry or frustrated they will feel it and may also become upset. Be aware of facial expression, voice tone and language, so as not to convey any negative personal emotion to the person with Alzheimer's Disease.
Another dimension of emotional awareness is an apparent heightened spiritual intuitiveness, making the continuation of life-long spiritual practices especially important.
Even though emotions are felt, it becomes more difficult to express them, particularly verbally. It also becomes harder to interpret the environment and make an appropriate emotional response. The onus is on caregivers to facilitate the expression of emotion, especially through non-verbal methods. Simplifying and clarifying the environment helps to facilitate appropriate emotional expression.
There are many activities that encourage non-verbal emotional expression.
It is important to let people know that you are aware of their feelings. Read non-verbal cues (e.g. facial expressions) and the tone of the voice to determine the nature of the feelings, then check it out with them by saying something like, "John, you seem to be very upset. Is that true?" Then, "Are you upset because ?" Even if you can't determine the source of the upset, letting the person know that you realize how they are feeling often helps reduce distress.
Excerpt from: Living at home with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, published by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and Alzheimer Society of Canada, coordinated by occupational therapist Carole Bowlby, Available from CAOT Publications ACE at 1 (800) 434-2268, ext. 242.