notes

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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.
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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!
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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.
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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! :)

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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!

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a good thing

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From my caregiving journal:

12.4.12

Thought it was the 3rd all day. Oops.

Working a lot this week! It’s a little crazy! But I’m making it!

Today Miss Trish and I did an ornament decorating activity and had a fun time. If I can bring her a smile, then that’s a good thing.

To tired to think/write. [I used the wrong "to" which really shows how tired I was!]

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a special person

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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:

  1. How to respond??
    1. “Thank you for noticing, I am a special person!!” Maybe comes off a bit prideful.
    2. “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.
    3. *Some sort of meek agreement/thank you* This much humility is hard for me! Ha.
  2. It implies that the other person is not a special person. How mean!
  3. 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.
  4. It’s a “yes, but also no” kind of thing.
    1. 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!
    2. 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.

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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.

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a hero

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5.20.13

Today I cleaned and re-arranged the shelves in Miss M’s fridge so that the tall things are not at the top. It hurts her shoulder to reach up. I took her to lunch and the craft store, to get out and have a break. [Her husband had Alzheimer's and she was his main caregiver.]

I did 5 loads of laundry today. I did the dishes and made cookies and wrote a grocery list. I never put on makeup and stayed in cleaning clothes all day. I probably frustrated my boss at my other job by not being able to come in after all. I overcommitted to more shifts. My car really needs an oil change.

I avoided things, judged people, drove over and under the speed limit. Prayed. Thanked. Gave. Served. Went to Walgreens.

I think I’m a hero.

encouragement

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!20141003_111303
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!
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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.

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life is short

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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!

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