Hanging out with Alzheimer’s
Last week, one of the aides at Mom’s facility showed me a picture of one of the residents with her husband when they were young. It might have been their wedding photo, they looked so happy. They could have been taken right out of a scene from a Bing Crosby movie. He was dressed in a sailor uniform, she in a sweet dress. Both had big smiles on their very young faces.
More often than not when guests visit a memory care residence they are upset to see how deteriorated some of the residents are. It is hard for them to see it, hard for them to stay long. It’s true, many are napping or sitting in wheel chairs. Many are quite old, though some seem much too young to be dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Admittedly aging isn’t pretty or easy. Some struggle far more than others. But when I saw that picture of Dina and her husband, their happiness struck me.
FOCUS ON THE LIVES THEY HAVE LED
We should focus on their lives. Even while it is hard to watch our parents deteriorate, remember all they did before they got there. Before the woman in the photo came to live here, she had a full life. She was married. She had a family, four children. Like all of us, no doubt she had she share of sorrow too. But judging by her laughter now, I think she had a sweet life. We will have our last years of life, with or without our memories intact. If we can see it as finishing their full lives it might help us accept their ‘now.’
Mom is in the last stage of Alzheimer’s, though she is Norwegian, so she may have a few years yet. People say how hard it must be to see her like that, but I enjoy her every day. I get worried at times, especially when she gets sick. Yes, some days I struggle with how much less she is able to do, remembering the pleasure she got from reading her favorite authors, baking pies and cookies, going for walks with Dad. And when she is tearful, when she cries, it breaks my heart.
That she can’t tell me what’s wrong makes it that much worse. But, a piece of candy or a walk is all it takes to have her smiling again. A visit with another resident will distract her from her sadness. I will talk about her family, her life. And she has had a long, fulfilling, healthy life including a seventy year marriage to Dad, who held her hand every night watching television. She has children and grandchildren who love her and loved being with her.
She had a life in a beautiful area in a home she loved. She’s lived.
AN AWESOME GENERATION WITH STRONG VALUES
Try to look at the aging with fresh eyes. Their’s is an impressive generation. Many lived through the great depression, World War 2, the Korean War, and the rest. Several of the men in the facility and at least two of the women served in the military. They married, raised families, adored their grandchildren, and today still smile from ear to ear when a little child comes in for a visit.
They are still strong in many ways. They maintain the dignity of that generation. Courtesy abounds.
They will chat with each other, listening when another resident says something, even if they don’t or can’t understand what was said. They respond when appropriate, with a nod or a ‘yes’ or words. They keep each other company while eating, often waiting until the rest at the table are finished before getting up themselves. They comfort a soul that is upset with a hug or a pat on the shoulder with words like, “it will be okay,” or “there now, it’s all right.” They will take each other’s hand and walk together for comfort, sit on the couch and share a blanket.
In spite of their inabilities, that part instilled in them them continues.
Celebrate who they have been. Celebrate the number of years they’ve lived. We may feel badly for them, but they are generally content. That’s more than can be said for many of us.
I hope we can reflect our lives as well when we are their age.
There are several books I recommend in many of my other Alzheimer’s articles. You can find them on my website, www.alzheimershq.com. Today I’d like to share is a book that may bless you and your loved one. It will give you a chance to remember the past and suggestions how to share it with them. A bestseller for caregiving.
Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia: A Journal for Caregivers, Fourth Edition