The Etiquette of Alzheimer's

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14:  Chef B. Smith attends BET Honors 2012 at the Warner Theatre on January 14, 2012 in Washington,
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: Chef B. Smith attends BET Honors 2012 at the Warner Theatre on January 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

Next week, B. and Dan will be doing a talk and a signing for their book, Before I Forget, on Tuesday, January 19th at Barnes and Noble, Broadway and 82nd Street, New York. I'm looking forward to seeing them, getting the book and listening to the talk. But, I wondered what would I or should I say if B. doesn't remember me. Do I introduce myself? Do I make her remember that I'm one of the twins?

I shared my thoughts with Dan and asked if he would mind if I did a Q&A. I sent some questions and he gave me some answers, as only Dan can give in his wise, funny and poignant way. Even if you're not going to be in New York, you'll find his advice of great value.

"Everything I say next is meant to help you understand the importance of making a person with Alzheimer's feel comfortable. You have to find humor in tough situations or they become unbearable. So with that in mind, here are some of my tips." Dan Gasby

What is the major "don't" when seeing B.?
Don't say, "Do you remember me?" or jump into a reminiscence of past times together; she might not be able to follow you there. People with Alzheimer's have enough don'ts and deficits. Their brains are already dissing them; they don't need you to do so, too. It's not about you; it's about her. Be there in that moment. Be present. Just relax--she doesn't need your tension, she needs your attention.

What is the major "do" when seeing B. and you?
Come bearing jokes...and if you don't have any good ones to tell, at least consider bringing me some scotch. In all seriousness, any light you can bring to anyone wandering around in this disease's darkness is a blessing.

How comfortable is she with handshakes, hugs, can this cause anxiety?
B. is a natural hugger; thank G-d that Alzheimer's hasn't erased that in her. It's tricky, as everyone has a different personality and therefore a different response. But generally speaking, what you may see as hugging an old friend she more than likely will experience as a stranger approaching and encroaching on her space. You wouldn't want some stranger coming up to you and pawing you, would you? Put yourself in her shoes and you'll walk straight.

As an old friend, if she doesn't recognize me - do I introduce myself as if we've never met? Do I simply state my name?
No one will ever take offense, especially those of us of a certain graying population, at someone saying hello by introducing or re-introducing themselves by name. How many people do you see in your daily life whose face is familiar, but you just can't quite grasp their name? Give her the chance to say, "I remember you." It's not something she gets to say as often as either of us would like.

As a caregiver, what should others do in public situations such as a book signing?
Bathe. No, seriously, it's going to be crowded and loud and a little overwhelming for both of us, so a simple hello, a smile, and a quick thank you for 'sharing our story' or some other pleasantry (or joke) would be much appreciated.

If you want to join the fight, click here.

And lastly, as B. used to say at the end of every one of their shows, "Thank you, Dan."