Let’s be honest because only in being honest, especially with the self, could we fairly deal with “life”. In today’s rat-race way of living, anything and everything that gets in the way and slows us down in our journey to our desired stature which we succinctly term our as “future” should be eliminated. But how can we do that to our parents? The parents who cared for us and nurtured “our lives” as if it were their own, sometimes even more than they cared for themselves.
How can this be going on? Well, you can blame much of that on the demonization of Alzheimer’s disease which brings lots of money into various organizations and drug companies, alas. Also, families apparently don’t even question the diagnosis they are given. Probably I wouldn’t either if I hadn’t seen so much Dementia Normal.
And then there is the intensification of memory that develops as we age. I don’t read much about that anywhere, but I see it, both in the elders I care for who have dementia and in the elders I teach who are working on their life stories by writing them.
During one of the darkest periods of our country many only knew Mary Todd Lincoln as the wife of President Abraham Lincoln. However, many would be surprised to learn that as the gruesome battle between brothers raged on, Mary was also out tending to the wounded soldiers of the Civil War.
If possible, shadow experienced teams without your animal to a broad variety of environments and populations. See how different visits to hospitals are versus hospice or skilled nursing facilities or Live In Dementia Care At Home. See what is expected and accepted regarding the demeanor and behavior of the animal. Experience working with children in a classroom setting versus one on one with children with special needs. Think about how your dog would respond to the smells, sounds, flooring, size, scope of each facility and be guided by what your dog will accept best.
We have all heard the phrase “for better or worse.” For starters, families need to understand that their loved ones with dementia are not the same mentally as they used to be. You might not be able to go on long walks with them again, or enjoy a night at the movies. They will probably never bring you chocolate or flowers again. Yet, they are the same loving person you spent years with, they just probably don’t remember all of it.
Here are other things that remain: love of good food, love of music, love of pets, love of you or anyone else who is loving and accepting. Enjoyment of being in nature, being surrounded by an understanding family. A sense of humor.
LM: I didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s disease before working here and at the Alzheimer’s Organization. Just to see the compassion and love for residents expressed here everyday has been a wonderful experience. We provide care in a home setting, quality care in a familiar setting. I would choose it for my loved one. The caregivers here have a heart and passion for caregiving. It is a very special role in a special place.