At times I find a scrap of paper around the house, with notes of an Alzheimer’s client trying to remember something or ask something. I’ve kept some of them because they provide a little window into what is on their heart, even when their mind is having trouble keeping up.
The vulnerability of someone with Alzheimer’s is what draws out my compassion. I want to shield them and help them feel safe and loved!
My least favorite part.. answering the question, “Where is my husband?” How do I even do it? I don’t know. Sometimes I go with the story line agreed upon by family and other caregivers- “he’s on a trip” or whatever it may be. It is gentler to not remind a person dozens of times a day that their husband of 59 years is dead. But I also dislike lying to a dear little client.. so at other times, especially if I can sense that deep down they know the answer, I tell the truth as softly as I can.
The move to a nursing home or assisted living is so hard. Better in the long run, usually, but it throws off a person with Alzheimer’s so much.
A happier kind of note: finding my name written places! :)
And a score sheet of our many card games! Something my client can still remember how to do- so it boosts her confidence, distracts her from a constant loop of trying to remember/worrying, and adds a lot of fun to our day!
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Pure & undefiled, the way it should be. Me reaching out. Visiting, helping, caring.
Caregiving is sitting on the porch, talking about the neighbors, listening to the birds, measuring the milkweed plants by how tall they were compared to me, waiting till the last minute to go back inside.
On plenty of days as a caregiver, I do a perfectly adequate job. No fanfare, no heart-warming moments. My client was cared for and I did what I needed to do, that’s all.
I don’t necessarily feel like a hero then, or a special person. And here I will ramble on a bit about something that has been a pet peeve of mine but I’ve not always known why: when people ask me what I do, then respond with,
“Wow, it takes a special person.”
Some reasons this bothers me:
- How to respond??
- “Thank you for noticing, I am a special person!!” Maybe comes off a bit prideful.
- “No I’m not!” Sounds like I want to pick a fight about why I’m not special. With their comeback always being, “oh but you ARE!” Which is just silly.
- *Some sort of meek agreement/thank you* This much humility is hard for me! Ha.
- It implies that the other person is not a special person. How mean!
- It seems to let the other person off the hook of being “a special person” like, “YOU are one who does those things, while I am not.” My thought is, at some point in life most of us will be put in the position of being that “special person” to somebody. Your parents, grandparents, kids, a co-worker, a friend who is sick, or whatever. There will be hard things to do, and you will do them. Anyone can care and help someone, it doesn’t take a special category of person.
- It’s a “yes, but also no” kind of thing.
- I do believe that God gave me a special mixture of empathy, patience, spunk, love for Jeopardy, and what-not, because one of the things He created me to do is care for elderly folks. I get excited about my work! I was made to do this! I am special!
- Also I am not special! I could only do this work with my Father. Without His help along the way I would have failed long ago, because I’m prone to lots of non-specialness: laziness, me-first-ness, etc.
Example: a memorable afternoon of caregiving. I was heading into my shift very tired, irritable, non-special. I tossed out a quick prayer/threat, “God, if you want me to be a caregiver to this difficult woman for the next 4 hours You have to help me big time.” It was not pretty. But slowly my heart was humbled & softened and I discovered an extra reserve of patience. Surprisingly I had a truly wonderful, rewarding time caring for a special lady.
I was willing, more than I was special. Willing to serve, to give love. That opportunity is open to anyone, and anyone can put their special spin on it.
One of my goals for after college was not to get burnt out. I’d already experienced some of that and heard lots of stories from people who go into a human services field and before long, were just done. A main reason I kept going those first few years was encouragement. I got a lot of it, from many people in my life, and it made all the difference!
My first supervisor Jessi bombarded me me with cards. I don’t know how else to put it! Thanking me, pointing out specifics, letting me know I was important. Many of those cards had a way of arriving on hard, stressful days. I’m grateful for her gift of encouragement!
Another person who comes to mind specifically is my longtime roommate & co-worker Kathy. She always listened to me blurt out my frustrations,gave great feedback and ideas, and could be relied upon to suggest something to de-stress like watching TV, wearing sweats and eating ice cream! She gives good cards & puppy pictures, too.
Their words were a gift to me.
You’ve been hearing about Miss Trish, my dear client of several years. She is no longer living but I have a treasure trove of memories!
This is one of my favorite photos. Just look at her! I told her “let’s take a picture to email to your daughter so she can see what we did today!” but wow, I barely got the picture in before she started going after that chocolate. :)
Life is short, eat dessert first- it makes sense that seniors would know that better than anyone!