June is Alzheimer’s and brain awareness month, so throughout the month of June, we will seek to converse with you about Alzheimer’s and the brain, and perhaps through our conversations we could encourage you to come alongside those affected by Alzheimer’s and fence them in with your love and support.
A few years ago one of our caregivers called asking that I come over to our client’s home ASAP. When I arrived, the caregiver, the client’s husband and our client, were huddled in the bathroom, with varying expressions of helplessness. Our client, was a beautiful 53 year old woman, named Alice, due to a car accident, Alice had sustained a severe enough brain injury, to later develop Alzheimer’s. She was in her 40s when she lost her ability to understand simple instructions or convey, coherently, her desires.
What was striking to me was the contract in her physical appearance versus her cognitive ability. A former competitive swimmer, she had a slender frame, lean and still very athletic in appearance and ability – she could easily walk 3+ miles a day (while her 25 year old caregiver struggled to keep up with her pace).
Her youthful appearance belied the debilitating disease that now trapped her mind. Our caregiver, and Alice’s husband’s instructions on using her washcloth, fell on ears that listened, but a mind that could no longer comprehend. That day, wrought with emotions, her husband stood with tears in his eyes, as I instructed the caregiver. Our caregiver, gently took Alice’s hands, placed the soapy washcloth in it, and guided her hands over her body – verbal instructions were no longer effective.
I recently saw a Kenny Chesney video titled “While he still knows who I am;” the song’s protagonist was going home to visit his Dad, who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and he outlined his plans to get to know Dad, they were simple – hug him, and tell him he loves him, no more handshakes, just love on Dad while he still could recognize his son.
We’ve cared for hundreds of clients with dementia over the years, but our 53 year old client seared in me the desire to convey truth + love NOW; before it’s too late – like Kenny sings with urgency – while they still know who we are.
So what does fencing them in with love looks like? Well it’s practical and it’s deliberate. Notice the needs and come alongside with help. Offer to sit with a neighbor, or a friend’s parents, or a fellow church member’s spouse, for a few hours, and allow that family caregiver the opportunity to take a break, and regroup.
If you feel ill equipped and unsure as to how you could help, don’t give up, volunteer in the Activities department in a Nursing home, lots of opportunity to learn and to serve. Finally, become a part of the movement to find a cure – give financially to organizations that are actively seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s.
This June, let’s do our part to raise awareness by deliberately seeking opportunities to serve. If you, or someone you know, needs practical assistance with caring for a loved one with dementia, visit our website at www.aplusseniorcare.com, or call our office directly – we would love to be a resource to you.