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New study on Alzheimer's patients, spouses

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Hy Rothman is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Arline Rothman, Hy’s wife, tells her husband, “I love you so much. You know that?”

A few years ago, the Rothmans were part of a study on maintaining caring relationships in spouses affected by Alzheimer’s. Researchers visited couples in their homes for 10 weeks and coached them on ways to better communicate.

 “Just to try to encourage them to talk rather than put them on the spot for something that they might have to answer ‘no I don’t remember that,” explained Christine Williams, DNSc, Professor and Researcher at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.

Arline said, “Show love, show understanding. Don’t get angry at them.”

When spouses connect in a caring way, there can be heartwarming moments in return.

“I think it’s very hopeful that people were engaging and were succeeding and they also reported that they were satisfied with their marriages,” Williams explained.

As a result of this study, Professor Williams is working to develop a formal training program for couples dealing with Alzheimer’s. That training program should be widely available in a couple of years. Williams says it has been tested, but results haven’t been published yet.