As you may know, I have written about my experience caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease, what resources are out there and what has helped in my situation. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, and she resides in an Alzheimer’s facility in Maryland. I live in Florida, so I am dependent on the skills and care that others give my mother during her remaining years.
You must realize that in any assisted living facility or nursing home, there are never enough caregivers to give each patient undivided attention. Each patient must be awakened, toileted, washed, hair combed, shaved if a male, and dressed. Vital signs must be taken and recorded. Just this routine requires two caregivers in order to lift and steady the patient getting out of bed, to the bathroom, etc. Good facilities are careful to preserve as much of the patient’s dignity as possible. Many of the patients behave like children, but even a child has a sense of lost dignity when they are in front of someone else naked.
The patients are wheeled or walked to the dining room to be given breakfast. The facility should encourage walking, at least with a walker, even if the patient doesn’t want to. The more they move around the better for circulation and well-being. A walking patient takes two caregivers, one on each side of the patient, to ensure safety.
That is why I decided to hire a private caregiver for my mother. Ophilia is with my mom nine hours a day, six days a week to provide care, assistance and companionship. We also have a woman companion from the local elder care agency who comes twice a week just to spend time with Mom. Since these two ladies have come into her life, my mother’s vital signs, overall health, outlook and happiness have improved tremendously. She has a new vitality, and a joie de vivre. I’m sure it’s because of the connection with people who care for her and are there just for her. It has made all the difference in the world.
Here are some resources for elder care:
I want to stress is that although my mother is living in an altered universe, she can still connect with certain activities she used to enjoy, and the memory of which has not disappeared. Mom can also still connect with people whom she sees regularly, and can communicate without words a special quality of gratitude and understanding toward whoever is caring for her. My mom was always a very caring and giving person, that quality is deep enough and unaltered by Alzheimer’s. It manifests when she is enjoying herself.
I received this message from Maralyn, the Angel companion from Debra Levy Elder Care, who has been visiting with my mom for nearly a year now. They enjoy music, classical and swing era, looking at fabrics (because my mom used to sew) classical music concerts on DVD, ballet, and singing. My mom’s name is Lou.
“What is that special quality about Lou that changes lives? As I write, I am listening to Washington’s classical music station, 90.9. I did not do this until I met Lou. I always tell Lou that she has changed my life because she is so cultured, and this is perhaps my greatest gift to her: “empowering” Lou by reminding her that her sweetness, joy, and zest for the arts have a powerful effect on those around her.
On my visit the other day Lou had just awakened from a nap, and was so pleased to see me. Usually, Lou and I begin right away with music, but on this visit I wanted to first connect face-to-face, because it had been a while since I saw her. I got down on Lou’s level, right in front of her, and we held hands & looked at each other and chatted, just connecting. Then I got an intuition of exactly what music to put on for Lou: I chose a CD of mine called, “More Classical Music.” My boom box really has a lovely, rich quality for classical music, and Lou and I pretended that we were being treated to a private concert in her room by the finest musicians.
I had one arm around Lou, and she was in sheer heaven, singing to every nuance of Verdi’s La Traviata. Then came the compositions of Schumann, Tchaikovsky, and Schubert, and Lou vocalized loudly to famous pieces. Lou is intimate with every detail of this music, and I sang along as best I could!
After a while, Lou noticed that there were ballet dancers on the TV, which was on mute, so we switched to watching “Classic Arts Showcase” on TV. We listened to orchestras and opera singers perform Bach and Vivaldi, and also enjoyed artists as diverse as Baryshnikov (in The Nutcracker) and Frank Sinatra. What astounded me is that Lou recognized every note of every song. I just could not believe her memory and her breadth of knowledge of different genres of music.
Before I left, I articulated to Lou her magnitude of culture and refinement. I told her that I listen to music differently since I met her; that I try to feel and appreciate classical (and other) music as she does…… My words are the simple truth, and I think that hearing them made Lou feel very good and special. As I left, I told Lou to please relax and enjoy the music on TV before dinner, and she closed her eyes and looked very peaceful and contented.
Amazingly, Mom’s love and knowledge about music and ballet is filed away in an undamaged part of her brain. Maralyn has unlocked that deep love that Mom has for music and magic happened.
If you can find someone who can connect with your loved one through an activity, (music, painting, movies, reading, cards), many times having someone share an activity with them on a regular basis can revive the sparkle in their lives and bring them immense happiness. I’ve been sent videos of my mother singing, and you can tell she’s a happy lady.
And that’s all that matters.
If I can answer any questions about what I’ve written, I welcome you to contact me. I’ll be glad to help any way I can.