What Alzheimer’s Patients Feel After Their Memories Have Vanished

Is the emotional life of Alzheimer’s patients alive and well?

Is the emotional life of Alzheimer’s patients alive and well?

While patients with Alzheimer’s might not remember when their loved ones visit, it has a profound effect on how they feel, a new study finds.

The study showed both happy and sad video clips lasting around 20 minutes to people with Alzheimer’s disease and observed their emotional states (Guzmán-Vélez et al., 2014).

They did the same for a group of healthy adults.

Five minutes afterwards, all the participants were given a memory test to see if they could remember the video they had just seen.

As you’d expect, Alzheimer’s patients remembered significantly less about the clips they’d just seen than the healthy group.

In fact, four out of the 17 patients could not remember a single fact about the clips and one patient couldn’t remember having seen any movie clips, despite the fact it was only five minutes later.

Despite not being able to remember seeing the videos, they were happier (or sadder, depending on the clips they’d seen) for at least 30 minutes afterwards.

Amazingly, when patients remembered less of the sad video clips, their feeling of sadness lasted longer.

Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez, the study’s lead author, said:

“This confirms that the emotional life of an Alzheimer’s patient is alive and well.”

It also underlines the importance of generating positive emotions when visiting patients with Alzheimer’s.

Guzmán-Vélez continued:

“Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward patients really do matter.

Frequent visits and social interactions, exercise, music, dance, jokes, and serving patients their favorite foods are all simple things that can have a lasting emotional impact on a patient’s quality of life and subjective well-being.”

Image credit: Bev Sykes


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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.