So once again I crawl into the mind of someone with Alzheimer's Disease and try my best to understand what my fragile mom might really be trying to tell me. For the past year she's been living at the nursing home and has not been back to our home. She left our house (thinking she would return), was hospitalized with dehydration, sent to skilled nursing facility to recover, and then on to her current domicile. During all of that time I've not taken Joan out of the nursing home - no visits to home or other places she enjoys because our car is simply too difficult for her to get in and out of. And, her social worker fears that it will be difficult to get her to go back to the nursing home if she come home, even for a visit (since she has penchant for wandering).
So, I came up with the idea that perhaps I could pay someone to provide field trip outings for Joan. It's the best and brightest idea I've had in quite a while. Before Joan went into the hospital, her early morning care was provided to her by the most wonderful caregiver in the whole world by the name of Donna! Donna took care of Mother for the 18 months prior to being hospitalized. She came to our house every morning from 7:00am - 9:00am, faithfully getting Mother ready for her day at the National Church Residence Day Care Center. This freed me up to get ready for work and arrive a bit less stressed than I arrived during the previous two years (this includes Larry who also handled a "lion's share" of responsibility for Mom.)
What can I say about Donna so you might understand how important she's been to our family:
- She provided a service to us worth much more than the salary she was provided with
- She was dependable and tidy and never missed a beat making Joan's bed, cooking breakfast and cleaning up afterwards
- She put up with a lot from my mom every morning, including enduring multiple wardrobe changes (often snatching things and putting them back into the closet when Joan's back was turned or she was showering so she was limited to one choice)
- She helped Joan with accessorizing, including putting on Joan's earrings, bracelets and necklaces
- She was kind and generous (almost to a fault) to Joan (don't think I didn't see all of those bracelets, etc. that you hand-made for my mother so she would have a red accessory to wear with her red outfit!)
- She became Joan's best friend and advocate - I could often hear the two of them laughing out-loud
- She is/was intuitive to Joan's health needs
- Her presence allowed Larry and I lead a normal life from 7-9 a.m.
- She became a part of the fabric of our family
- What's not to love?
I can't worry or wonder if Joan will remember her field-trips (which she probably won't after a day or a week), but what I can be assured of is that she is safe with Donna and that the time they have together will bring my mother joy during those hours.
Please stop thinking that you have to do it all for your family member with Alzheimer's; please, please give yourself a break whenever possible; please look for help outside of yourself; and please consider the person you are caregiver/advocate for. There are things they still enjoy doing. Be creative, think hard, and provide experiences and opportunities for your loved one to enjoy daily life, no matter their boundaries or constraints.
Does mom still complain about being cooped up - you guessed it, the answer is yes. But, am I doing my best to provide opportunities for her to get out and about - YOU BETCHA! As long as my mother still has the ability to do so, I want her to get up and get out! And, that my friends, brings me a great deal of satisfaction!