Aging comfortably in any setting means taking the time to support and improve your health, and in some cases, that means pain management. This applies whether elders are working with pain regularly, or just every now and again. One thing that may surprise you is a lot of people think that the best way for elders to grapple with this issue is being less active and resting. Not always.
Science shows that many people dealing with pain and not exercising enough can end up feeling stiff or tired. Getting active is a great practice for elders of all kinds for a variety of different reasons, and now there’s a new one to add to the list of benefits. So, even for those in an assisted living community in Edina, let’s talk about the fundamentals of a good exercise plan.
Planning Your Routine
For older people trying to be more active, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to be an athlete in order to start seeing benefits. In fact, anyone at any age can see tangible benefits just by stepping up their activity a small amount than usual. It’s not a bad idea in these cases to try and start off with lighter exercises. This applies even for people who know that they could do more at full strength. Starting lighter gives you a few benefits if you are in the midst of a pain episode rather than just going at full bore. A minor bit of physical activity increases circulation, which can help healing and reduce achy feelings.
But what if you decide that you need more acute support with your pain management? There are a lot of root issues that can contribute here, so the first place you want to start is working with a personal trainer/physical therapist. Memory care in Edina is a great starting point to work with these professionals. Their advice will be invaluable when it comes to finding ways to target the muscles where you may feel soreness most often. Developing them can help a lot with these issues. Another thing to be mindful of here is making sure that you aren’t overcompensating with other parts of the body when one part is sore. Building up your balance will make you feel better and avoid overexerting yourself.
Some people prefer formal discipline, especially for pain relief. If you’re looking for options here, some of the best options here are T’ai Chi or yoga. Both of these disciplines combine planned stretches and movements to support flexibility and strength. Deep breathing is also combined with these. Some of these people combine the spiritual side of both practices, but deep breathing can also help reduce anxiety.
For those who may not be able to do conventional exercise for one reason or another, one of the best options is aquatic therapy. While this isn’t necessarily the most common option available, it’s also held in high regard. This is largely due to the fact that while submerged, you get less impact on your joints from weight and gravity. This makes it easier for you to move around and do certain routines. Along with this, the lower load also combines pain tolerance. Note that any physical routine here will be easier to do in the water, allowing you to move around in ways that you wouldn’t be able to be on a land-based routine. Something like holding to the pool’s edge and moving your legs can help increase your heart rate.
Even with these points in place, some people may need to think of alternatives to fill out their exercise routines. This especially applies in areas where you may not be able to do a conventional routine. This generally applies to people at work or traveling. While some people use medication to help reduce soreness, this isn’t always applicable. Let’s talk about some of the alternatives available.
Some people may recommend aromatherapy for seniors when exercise isn’t possible. Your success may vary. On its own, aromatherapy can’t likely reduce soreness. However, it complements other measures well. Some people share anecdotes where scented herbs and oils help reduce muscle soreness and help with sleep. Acupuncture runs on similar principles. This helps with short-term relief by increasing blood flow to some parts of the body. Just make sure that you choose a professional you like and trust first.
One thing that doesn’t get talked about a lot when it comes to impact is the type of dietary choices you make. If you exercise but are still dealing with soreness, you may want to make sure that you get more vitamin D. This helps with muscle aches. How much you take depends on the recommendations of your medical professionals. Try to take your vitamin D along with your meals, and get sun exposure whenever you can.
But what about people feeling sore on the road and wanting relief? If you can’t exercise, consider how you are sitting. Also, any type of activity can be of benefit here. Just try and walk around, stand up, or do some basic stretches. Again, you don’t need to go full-bore to get some benefits when it comes to activity.
In some cases, due to issues with traveling or just the reduced amount of comfort involved, these may not be the first choices for elders wanting to get their exercise routine started. However, if you have any long-term goals with this, getting some sort of professional framework and support is essential. So, if you are a resident at senior housing in Edina, before trying something new, try to talk to the medical professionals on staff first. This will ensure that you’re safe no matter what you want to try. Exercising within your limits and practicing good dietary habits are key to improving your overall health and quality of life.
Although we cannot be with every senior during this time or peoples with compromised health systems, we still want to be a resource. Our Corporate Registered Dietitian will be putting together some short video segments to provide nutrition tips and fun little recipes for people to try on their own. We are hopeful that with these precautions we will be able to move on to our “normal lives” soon.
Nutrients found in foods can help boost our immune systems and provide our bodies with extra protection. That being said, it is not guaranteed that any of the foods will actually prevent you from ever becoming sick. However, here are just a few foods that can give us a little help in staying healthy!
Of course, proper hand hygiene is one of the most effective way to help prevent the spread of germs. We would also like to remind everyone to properly clean utensils, glassware and other serving dishes. Refrain from sharing silverware, cups, bottles, etc… to avoid the spread of germs from on to another.
The recipe today is one that our Registered Dietitian Becca thinks we all deserve at this time because it features steak! Steak is a wonderful source of protein, zinc and iron. Pairing foods like steak with other foods containing vitamin C (strawberries) helps our bodies absorb iron more efficiently too!
Did the stuffing taste the same this year? Perhaps instead of sage there was cinnamon in it. These types of things happen from time to time and generally are nothing to worry about unless you really despise cinnamon stuffing. There are a few other things we want you to be aware of, please read the rest of this article for a few more important things to check out beyond the food.
Aging. It’s difficult to see—especially in those you love. What are the signs of normal aging . . . of Alzheimer’s and other dementia? Can your parents or loved ones care for themselves without help? What kind of help is best? Where can you go to get it? How can you tell if your loved ones need help (even when they insist they don’t)? And even more importantly, how can you talk to them about it?
Here are some indicators to watch for:
Are your loved ones eating? Missing meals can be a sign of depression or dementia. The most common reason, however, is that shopping for and preparing meals might just be too much for them to handle.
Does your loved one look disheveled? Is he or she wearing dirty clothes, skipping baths? Sometimes fear of falling in the tub or shower can cause them to neglect their personal hygiene.
Decline in home appearance
What about their home? Are there piles of clutter? Dirty dishes, lots of laundry, unemptied trash, or spoiled food everywhere? If your former “neat-nik” loved one is now living in clutter this is cause for concern.
Is your loved one often confused? Over drawing bank accounts, missing bill payments? Do you often need to “redirect” them. This kind of cognitive decline can be
• Problems with medication management
• Mood swings
If you find yourself needing help with an aging loved one, Aurora on France can help.
• Transitional Care Units
• Assisted Living
• Memory Care
Want to get the conversation started? Get a FREE copy of
the book “Mom, Dad...Can We Talk?” visit go.fairview.org/book
As we approach the holidays, we realize how much we have to be thankful for in our lives.
Thanksgiving in my house growing up usually involved us traveling to see family. My grandpa was a great cook and would always make the turkey just right! For me, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. Nowadays, my husband does not like turkey, so he ends up getting some steak (more turkey for me!). Turkey is a good source of lean protein, vitamin B-6 and niacin which are essential for protein, fat & carbohydrate metabolism to produce energy in the body.
Another Thanksgiving staple, pumpkin pie, also yields some health benefits, Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium and fiber. Pumpkin also contains carotenoids which include beta carotene and lutein which is important for eye health. You can control the amount of sugar and fats in pumpkin pie by using plain pumpkin puree and evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.
While our main focus on the Thanksgiving meal is to enjoy it with friends and family, we should pay attention to the safety of foods during preparation and storage. Stuffing (or dressing) is unfortunately a cause for food poisoning if not cooked correctly. When stuffing the Thanksgiving bird, a general guideline is to plan for about 1 cup of prepared stuffing per pound of uncooked turkey. Use a food thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. Store leftover stuffing in a separate container than turkey when finished.
And now, a recipe:
Pumpkin Pie Dip (adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
This dip would be great to have available as guests arrive and start mingling, watching football and waiting for the main event!
Happy Thanksgiving to All!
Rebecca Kapsen, RDN, LDN
Ebenezer Corporate Registered Dietitian
Seven years ago I was living back in rural Iowa next door to my aging grandparents. It was a very small small community and within a two block radius I had my parents, two aunts, an uncle, and a partridge in a pear tree. Actually it was a turtle dove, but that's besides the point.
My grandma Janet had always been a very joyfully simple lady whose laugh could be picked out of a crowd of a thousand Iowans. I had been working in senior care for over two years and understood the value of what we do for older adults. I was confident on what we do and how to articulate it.
I started to notice a cognitive decline in Janet in 2012. It was harder for her to concentrate, she started forgetting where she would leave things, very simple things that made me adore her all the more. I adored her, but I also knew that she was beyond what my grandfather Sam was able to handle on his own. We tried to help as much as we could, but I couldn't convince anyone in my family that dementia was real and that we need to be thinking of the future! My dad would say "That's just how she is", my grandpa Sam would say "She's always arguing with me! (p.s. Don't argue with someone with dementia and Alzheimer's, it wont get you anywhere). I began to get to my wits end in the summer of 2013. I had been actively trying to share with my family the need of a memory care community for Janet and no one would listen! I felt like a failure and no one would hear that grandma might have dementia.
I realized at that point that I had to go outside of my family in order to get people on the bus. I reached out to my local assisted living and asked for resources. Their nurse offered to come and meet with my family and Janet and give a free assessment. I jumped on the opportunity!
It was a turning point with my grandmother's care because there was an "unbiased" presence that said it was time to look at other housing options. I am glad that I had someone nearby that was able to lend their expertise. Unfortunately, Janet went to find Jesus in 2017, but we were so blessed to have those final years be ones of comfort instead of stress. Thank you!
-Luke, Grandson and Healthcare Professional
When a person with dementia asks you a question for what seems like the 29th time in a row, how do you respond?
Have you found yourself saying (or almost saying) anything like this:
Physical changes in the brain can result in a person with dementia no longer being able to remember that s/he is repeating themselves. These changes also make it difficult for a person to stop a repetitive motion such as rubbing hands together, or tapping on a table. Anxiety and tension, (byproducts of the disorientation and memory loss of dementia) can translate themselves into repetitive motions or questions which others may experience as annoying.
Whatever a person with dementia does that appears “wrong” or “inappropriate” or “unnecessary” to our brains and our way of relating to the world is actually an expression of a need. That’s why I like the phrase “behavioral expression” so much better than the term “behavior” when referring to the challenges that can arise when someone lives with dementia. “Behavior” often implies judgment, that the person is being “bad”, which encourages us to assume that if the person only tried a little harder, they could control that incessant tapping, stop asking those repeated questions, and avoid using those four letter words that they never used before! The fact is that the person could only exert control over those things if they could STOP having dementia. This is, alas, too much to ask.
We must have patience and compassion for the seriousness of a broken brain. It’s up to us whose brains are in better shape, who have better control over our actions and responses to others to take a deep breath…and focus on helping the person out with whatever need is making itself known, however it may be expressed.
A hungry person might ask “What’s for lunch?” over and over. For this person, giving them a piece of paper with the upcoming “menu” written down may satisfy the question. In addition, getting the person involved in some aspect of meal or table preparation might be an effective distraction.
If a person with dementia is in pain, they might rock, pace or otherwise move rhythmically to express their discomfort. We must be sensitive to the comfort–related needs of the person, and do what we can to alleviate them. Sometimes, giving a repetitive task like winding yarn or folding towels can be a comforting distraction for the person.
Sometimes people may be bored, craving a sense of purpose and meaning. Repetitive movement can be reflective of things the person used to enjoy doing on a regular basis. If your loved one asks you, “What do I do now?” they are in effect asking you to involve them in something that will give them a sense of pleasure, peace, or usefulness. Put something of interest in their hands. Ask them for help with a task. We all need to be of use. This does not stop when we get older or when we develop dementia. An inability to take initiative is usually part of the dementia progression. Do not assume that your loved one is beyond having interest in things that have been important to them. The person may be at a loss as to how to access or activate that interest. In that case, it falls to us to remind the person of their accomplishments and adapt past interests into activities they are able to enjoy now.
It is a good idea not to discuss plans with a person (appointments, visitors, outings) who has very short-term memory loss. Knowing an event too far ahead of time can cause extreme agitation (as well as, you guessed it, repeated questions) for a person with dementia. This tendency will vary, of course, person to person, but it is necessary to monitor and adapt to the changes as dementia progresses.
Sometimes the need expressed is an emotional one. The person may be fearful, sad, or feeling insecure. That emotion could come out as a repeated question or as a physical expression, i.e., pacing, as the person attempts to express what is inside. Listen for the emotion behind a person’s question or behavioral expression, and respond to that, i.e., “You seem worried. I’m right here if you need anything. “We will be together all day.” Putting on soothing music that the person likes and using gentle touch may provide further reassurance.
If the person seems to need a hug, tell him or her that YOU need a hug, and they will very likely oblige you with one. Then they get to feel that they are giving you something that YOU need. We all feel better when that happens!
--Marysue Moses, Ebenezer Dimensions Program Coordinator
--Information in this post is partially based on material in Coping with Behavior Change in Dementia: A Family Caregiver’s Guide, by Beth Spencer and Laurie White
Paranoia is one of the many possible challenges of dementia. It’s a blaming belief or suspiciousness that a person with dementia holds onto, despite explanations or lack of proof of this belief.
Sometimes people with dementia will accuse others in the household of stealing something that they themselves have misplaced. It is very tempting to try to convince the person otherwise when they are convinced that something has been stolen. But arguing doesn’t get us very far when a person has dementia and Alzheimer's. It usually causes stress, frustration and upset for all concerned! It is more productive to “cross to their side of the street” in order to see things compassionately, from the person’s point of view. Sandra Mcgurran, social worker with Fairview Home Care and Hospice Senior Services, recently shared with me the idea that “Compassion = Empathy + Action”. This concept can be applied here.
Here are some DO’S and DON’TS to guide you in giving a compassionate response in these sorts of situations.
DO NOT TAKE OFFENSE on behalf of the accused person.
DO LISTEN to what is bothering the person with dementia, and VALIDATE their feeling, i.e., “That’s not a very nice feeling, to think someone would just take something from you.”
DO RESIST THE URGE to get into an argument with the person.
DO ACKNOWLEDGE the upset. “I can see why you’re upset. I would be too, if that happened to me.”
DO NOT offer a lengthy opinion or a list of reasons why they shouldn’t be upset.
DO OFFER A SIMPLE IDEA. “I wonder if your blouse is in the wash.” Or… “Maybe your wallet was left in a pocket?”
DO BE HELPFUL and action-oriented. “I will go check the laundry room.” “Let’s check your pockets”.
DO ASK QUESTIONS. “Let me get this right. What color was that shirt?
DO BE REASSURING. “Don’t you worry. We will get to the bottom of it.” ‘I’m sure we’ll find it”. “I’m good at finding things.”
DO SHIFT THE FOCUS. “Let’s have a cup of coffee; coffee always helps me think more clearly!” Be sure to offer something you know the person will be interested in!
DO DUPLICATE items that are repeatedly misplaced. For example, if a person often loses their wallet, obtain several of the same kind to keep on hand. Make copies of cards that are in the original, so you can stuff the replacement wallets with those.
But what if YOU are the person being accused directly? This can certainly be tricky.
It’s hard not to feel hurt by such an accusation. What can you do?
DO LET THAT ROLL OFF YOUR BACK in favor of remembering that your family member is functioning with a brain that is doing the absolute best it can possibly do under the circumstances of dementia.
DO TRY IGNORING THE ACCUSATION. Instead, simply validate the person’s feelings, i.e., “Oh no! Your favorite blouse is missing? Of course you’re upset. That’s a beautiful blouse!”
Maybe this will distract the focus from YOUR culpability, or maybe not. Depending on the level of the person’s upset and suspiciousness, you might need to step away and if someone else is available to assist. In that case, try, “I can see you’re upset with me. I’ll go see if Ann will help you look.”
DO THINK AHEAD. For things that are frequently misplaced, it could be helpful to establish and clearly label a home base in the room where a purse can hang or a wallet can sit. You might initiate a routine of checking that spot every night together.
Finally, it can really help in any sort of frustrating situation with a person with dementia to MAINTAIN A SENSE OF HUMOR AND GOOD WILL towards the person. Is there a way you can turn that uncomfortable situation around and actually give the person a compliment? Maybe you can remind them of advice they once gave you! “You know, Mom, I remember you telling me when I lost stuff that I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached. You were so right! You also said that lost things usually turn up if we are teensy bit patient! That was always so helpful!”
For more info on coping with paranoia as well as other challenges that can arise with dementia, see Coping with Behavior Change in Dementia: A Family Caregiver’s Guide, by Beth Spencer and Laurie White.
--Marysue Moses, Ebenezer Dimensions Program Coordinator
Many older adults want to stay in their home as long as possible. There is an assumption that staying in your home means you are independent, but the reality is it can often lead to loneliness and isolation. The health effects of long-term isolation are measurable and include chronic health conditions, depression, anxiety, dementia and even premature death. One study reported the negative health effects of long-term isolation are equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Those living with dementia can feel an even greater isolation as many of their once familiar surroundings no longer resemble anything of what they remember. Alzheimer's specific communities are shown to provide greater support to conditions that can change very rapidly.
Loneliness too is on the rise overall, but those most affected are those 80 and older according to a 2016 study.
Older adults who are most at risk are often:
The best remedy for loneliness is staying connected. Staying connected, interacting with others, and staying socially engaged with friends and your community can help keep fight loneliness and the health risks that are associated with it.
How can a move to Senior Living help fight loneliness?
When people move into a senior living community, the older adults often tell us, “I wish I would have moved sooner.” And their family members tell us, “We’ve seen our loved one blossom in the last few months!”
We invite you to visit an Ebenezer community. Talk with our residents to hear how their health and their lives have changed for the better after moving to senior living.
For more information about loneliness and isolation, the AARP Foundation offers its online resource Connect2Affect. There you can find a self-assessment to determine your risk factors and tips on how to stay connected. Click here to take your self-assessment. Resources that informed this article include Government’s Role in Fighting Loneliness by Emily Holland, as published in the Wall Street Journal, and the Blue Zones Power 9 ® by Dan Buettner.
There are many different ways that families handle communicating with their loved one about a move to memory care. The most successful plan will be designed to meet your loved one’s needs. Some family members don’t even tell the person they are going to move, knowing this could create undue anxiety. They bring the person to the new space once it is all set up and say, “Surprise! We found you this great new place to live, Mom!” This is usually followed by one of the advantages. “It’s closer to me; I’ll be able to visit more.” Or, if the person is worried about money, “It’s more affordable!” Of course some people are not too fond of surprises, so this approach will not necessarily work for everyone.
Other families are completely honest with their loved one about the need for “more care” and they even have their loved one participate in the move, i.e., carrying a few things to the new space on his or her walker. But telling a loved one about this too far in advance could backfire, making the person feel like they are being “kicked out” of their current home. Once the person moves into the new place, they may keep packing everything up, as they are still fixated on this idea that they have to move.
Do's and Don'ts
However you decide to handle the communication, make sure all family members are on the same page, and keep in mind the following guidelines:
DON’T keep reminding your loved one they are moving if it makes them anxious. You might try telling them once, in a matter of fact manner, to see how they take it. If it stresses them out to talk about a move, don’t keep bringing it up.
DO reassure the person that they will be getting more help. Because of their dementia, they may bring up the same concerns or fears over and over. Let the person voice their concerns, and be understanding in your replies, i.e. “I can see why you’re worried about that. We’ll figure it out.”
DON’T pull your loved one into the details of the planning and packing process. Don’t ask them to decide what to bring and what to leave behind. With memory loss, decision making and any process with multiple steps will present challenges. If you don’t already know which objects or knick-knacks are most important to your loved one, spend time observing what things around their home they use and enjoy on a regular basis.
DO work with a move manager. A great example comes from a family who had one daughter take mom out for a morning of shopping followed by lunch, while the other daughter was assisting the move manager. The move manager set up the new apartment to look almost identical to the room in the old house where mom spent most of her time. This is a very good idea! When they brought mom into her new apartment, she knew something was different, but she felt very much at home right away.
DON’T over-pack. Memory care apartments are small for a reason – large spaces with lots of “stuff” can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for people with memory loss. A smaller space with a manageable amount of items in it eases the mind. Again, pay attention to what your loved one actually uses throughout the day and bring just what he or she needs. If your loved one misses something, you can always bring it later.
DO consider leaving the TV at home. As memory loss progresses, TV shows can be hard for people to follow. They can also be upsetting, as they can be confused with reality. Bring music, family photo albums and art or photography books instead – they are more therapeutic. Consider leaving valuables behind too. A person with dementia often picks something up, puts it down, and then forgets where it is. Save yourself the heartache of a missing priceless family heirloom by not bringing it to the new memory care apartment. If your loved one insists on having a wallet or purse, expect that these will be lost and you may need to resupply them in a jiffy! Having some extras ready to go for staff to grab is not a bad idea. Fake IDs and obsolete credit cards can be placed into them. But it might simply be enough to reassure the person that “everything is paid for” or that you’re handling all the bills. You can even write this information down for the person—staff can make multiple copies to give to your loved one when questions arise.
DON’T get started too late in the day. Try to get the move done so that your loved one is settled in their apartment by 2 or 3 p.m. at the latest. As the day progresses we all get tired, but a person with dementia will not cope as well as the rest of us. Enlist more moving help if you need the extra hands to be finished by 2 p.m. – it will make the transition smoother.
DO remember that people usually adjust quite well to their new environment, but that this could take around 2-4 weeks. Be reassured in knowing the staff in the memory care community is there to help your loved one settle into a comfortable routine. Because the new environment (not only the apartment but also the programming and the structure of the day) is designed to fit the needs of a person with dementia, you will start to notice your family member more at ease than they were before the move. When your focus returns to your relationship with your loved one, rather than the details of day to day caregiving, you will also be more content, knowing you have made the right decision.
Finally, remember it is futile to try to argue the person out of whatever feelings they have before, during, or after the moving process. The brain of a person with dementia is going to rebel against your logic and may become extremely frustrated and upset as a result. Be respectful of your loved one’s feelings throughout the process. When the person expresses fear, or sadness, or anger, nod and be understanding. You don’t have to “fix it” for them, but it will be helpful to validate their feelings by saying things like: “I can see you’re upset.” “Of course you’re angry.” “I bet I would feel that way too, if I was in your shoes.” “It sure is stressful to move.” “I’m sorry this is hard for you.” “We’ll get through it together.” “I wish I could help you feel better about this.” “I will do everything I can to help you.” And remember to tell your loved one that you love them!
Writing on this day before Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, I am thinking about all the people I’ve known, loved, worked with, learned from and admired who have lived or are living with dementia.
Mary Ellen is top of mind today. She was supremely intelligent, stunningly beautiful, elegant, well-traveled, and maintained a wild sense of humor. As her dementia progressed, she exercised her love of rhyming more and more. She was famous for enthusiastically blurting out, at random, “If you get to heaven before I do, just drill a hole and pull me through!” One day as I was sitting with a small group of residents, Mary Ellen was clearly in her rhyming mood. So I challenged her to make up a rhyme for everyone in the group. She did not hesitate: “Marysue, how do you do, Millie, you are silly, Dottie Dottie two by four, can’t get through the bathroom door”. (Fortunately, Dottie was hard of hearing.) ”Peg has a funny leg, Bernice fell in the grease, Mary Ellen is swellin’!”
I think about Jean, who knew lots and lots of Shakespeare. Well, she was British, so of course she did! She spoke it simply and beautifully, better than some actors I’ve heard at the Guthrie, I swear! When she was on hospice and just a few days away from her departure from this life, I whispered some Shakespeare into her ear.
I think about Betty, the Amazing Betty, who had been a pole vaulter in high school and college. She used a walker now, but loved being reminded of her former skill. She drank green tea way before it was popular. Betty had traveled all over the world, by herself. You could not name a country she was not absolutely sure she had been to, although a few of them she was only “pretty sure” about.
And another Betty was a wonderful pianist who could sit down at a piano and play like a virtuoso, though she might not be able to tell you who the composer of the piece was.
And another Betty knew a ton of songs from musicals; we had a lot of fun singing them together…“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you!” When Betty sang, it was with great joy.
Another Betty had been an artist, quite a painter. She also knew how to fly a plane. She was deep, this Betty. I remember the day she was scheduled to move out to another place. Her needs had grown beyond what could be provided where I was working at the time. She was not yet aware that she was to leave us that day, but for some reason she came to my office in the early morning, stood in the doorway looking right at me and said, “Have a nice life.”
I think of Millie who danced up a storm. She and her husband had gone to ballrooms every weekend, for years and years. Millie was in great shape from all that dancing!
I think of Eunice…fragile, vulnerable, always wearing a fashionable hat Eunice, always looking for her mother, always needing to find her. Eunice had cared for her mother, who had lived with Alzheimer’s disease. Eunice was not alert to the fact that she was now in the same boat. Eunice had been an avid golfer and even had a photo of herself and Arnold Palmer together! She was very proud of that! And she was the most competitive Balloon Volleyball player I’d ever seen.
I think of my mom, of course. I see her soft brown eyes and feel the way she tilted her head and looked at me that one time I came to visit. It was pretty late in her journey with dementia, I hadn’t seen her for a number of months and I had wondered if she would recognize me. I could tell she maybe didn’t know my name but the love that radiated through those eyes just about knocked me over. She wasn’t speaking much, if at all, by then, although I heard that one time she came out with an excited exclamation of “Bacon!” when she recognized the smell on her way to the dining room.
I could go on and on, listing the strengths and passions and quirks of so many people I’ve known who have touched me deeply, who have cemented my desire to keep connecting with people with dementia and to keep working to make their lives easier and more fulfilling.
I have a friend and colleague who had a stroke a couple years ago. Yes, he has some struggles with word-finding, organization, and short-term memory. His whimsical sense of humor and his personality are delightfully present.
I am grateful for all these people mentioned here, and for many whom I have not mentioned, including people I’ve seen present at conferences who defy the stereotype we all too often latch onto when we hear that someone has “dementia.” Many folks are successfully living with early stage dementia and working hard to erase the stigma that surrounds that word.
I am grateful for the strengths and skills that people with dementia retain. I am grateful that people with dementia continue to be themselves. Yes, the packaging looks different, and there are adjustments of expectations to be made on our part, not to mention theirs, but the spirit that drives people with dementia is unmistakably intact, if only one can learn how to connect with it. If only we do not give up on them!
-- Marysue Moses, Dimensions Program Coordinator
Aurora Senior Living is managed by Ebenezer, Minnesota’s largest senior living operator. Ebenezer is the senior housing division of Fairview Health Services and has 100 years of experience serving older adults.
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