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Best Friends Approach when Caring for Those with Alzheimer's and Memory Loss

  • Published: 2010-08-31 : Author: Virginia Bell and David Troxel, The Best Friends Approach
  • Synopsis: The Best Friends Approach seeks to make life better by adapting a philosophy that is not difficult or hard to understand.

There is a quiet revolution taking place amongst caregivers of those with Alzheimer's and dementia, and it's really quite simple.

It's called the Best Friends Approach and international experts Virginia Bell and David Troxel are helping professional and non-professional caregivers alike engage in a method of care that is making everyone's lives better. Adopting a Best Friends approach helps diminish pain and loss and has a powerful impact on both the person with memory loss and the caregiver.

"Everyone wants to be treated as a real person and being treated as a best friend is what they need most of all. Friendship is so magical and multicultural as well as multi-generational," according to Virginia Bell, co-founder of Best Friends Approach. "We live in a hyper cognitive society where ones worth is often based on cognition, which is not true in many other countries where a person has infinite value even if they don't know what day it is"your worth is measured with different standards."

The Best Friends Approach seeks to make life better by adapting a philosophy that is not difficult or hard to understand. By applying the rules of friendship to the person living with memory loss, the relationship is transposed and is allowed to take on a new definition and with it new understandings.

Here are seven key points to apply when taking on the role of a Best Friend for someone with memory loss.

What is a Best Friend*

1. Friends Know each Other's Personality and History

A Best Friend becomes the person's memory, is sensitive to traditions and respects the personality, moods and problem-solving style.

2. Friends do Things Together

A Best Friend enjoys activities with the person with dementia, involves the person in activities and chores, initiate activities, encourages the simple things in life and celebrates special occasions

3. Friends Communicate

A Best Friend listens skillfully, fills in the blanks, asks easy questions and encourages participation in conversations.

4. Friendship Builds Self Esteem

A Best Friend gives compliments often, carefully asks for advice or opinions, always offers encouragement and congratulations

5. Friends Laugh Together Often

A Best Friend tells jokes and funny stories, is spontaneously fun, and uses self-deprecating humor often.

6. Friends are Equals

A Best Friend doesn't talk down to people; works to help the person "save face," doesn't assume a supervisory role and knows that learning is a two-way street.

7. Friends Work at the Relationship

A Best Friend is not overly sensitive, does more than half the work, builds a trusting relationship and shows affection often.

"The Best Friends Approach allows for the makings of a Win-Win situation. When behavior is better, there is less frustration and it's easier to spend more time together. We all feel better when we are with our best friends," add Bell.

Virginia Bell, MSW is a leading lecturer and widely respected speaker on Alzheimer's disease. She has spoken at 12 National Education Conferences of the Alzheimer's Association and over 20 conferences of Alzheimer's Disease International. She's been published in numerous journals and books, notably in Dementia Care: Patient, Family and Community (John Hopkins, 1989) and the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and in the Alzheimer's Care Quarterly. She is currently the Program Consultant for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. She is an active speaker internationally and lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

About Best Friends Approach

The Best Friends Approach redefines how to enhance the lives of individuals living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Founded by international authors and experts Virginia Bell and David Troxel, it represents the first comprehensive approach and philosophy geared towards caregivers whether in a healthcare setting or in a home. The mission is to share with caregivers an approach that is easy to understand, learn and apply everyday. For more information visit and follow us on facebook at

Source: Virginia Bell and David Troxel, A Dignified Life: The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care published by Health Communications Inc., 2002

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