Creating Connections When There is Temporal Lobe Atrophy
April 7, 2023
The temporal lobes are located on the sides of the brain, near the temples. The main jobs of the temporal lobes are understanding language, hearing, face and object recognition, and emotion. Even more, the right temporal lobe has different responsibilities than the left side. The right temporal lobe, generally speaking, handles learning and memorizing non-verbal information (art, music, etc.). Also, recognizing information, and determining facial expressions. The left temporal lobe handles understanding language, learning, memorizing, forming speech, and remembering verbal information.
So…how do you use this information to support someone living with Dementia?
There are some ways that you can help someone feel competent and skilled as it relates to language skills. When speaking, speak slowly and clearly, give the person 3-5 seconds to respond to you. Ask for clarification if you are not getting their message. Using visual cues, like gestures (pointing), drawings, photo albums with labeled pictures can help someone understand a message that is given. Using your facial expressions, body language is another form of communication that can be used to convey a message. Even when there is language loss, you can still have a close relationship.
Music can soothe, relieve anxiety and/or agitation, improve behavioral challenges, relieves stress, etc. Even later in the disease, if you play music from someone’s childhood, they may be able to tap or clap to the beat. It may even help them remember joyful moments in their life. Letting the person choose the music allows them to choose something that reflects their interests and mood. Encourage clapping, dancing – any kind of movement that is safe. You’ll be creating a connection with them through the power of music.
Art is another way to connect. With this, it is in the doing. The process, that is important. Yes, the end product creates a sense of accomplishment, but it provides a way for someone to express themselves. What’s nice about doing an art project is that there can be conversation, encouragement, and reminiscing that takes place while engaging in the project.
There are many projects using different methods. For Example, watercolor, collages, acrylic paint, collages, etc. which allows for variation. For those persons with more advanced Dementia, sometimes you may need to help them get started with the activity. Identify steps so you can finish it and move on to something else. Also, it might help to use mediums. They offer different textures to stimulate sensation and manipulation further on in the disease. For example, using clay/playdoh allows them to use their strength skills and remaining fine motor skills. These functions decline as Dementia progresses.
Above are just a few ways you can establish or build on a relationship you already have. Just remember, when there is cognitive change, the way we support a person matters. The use of empathy, understanding, forgiveness, humor, friendliness, and connection doesn’t just benefit the person living with Dementia. It benefits you, too.