Last week my sister and I visited my aunt in her home and my uncle who who has Alzheimer’s and lives in a memory care facility. I think these are some interesting facial expressions. My father was one of four boys, all served in WWII, the youngest died first before the age which he probably would have presented, and the other three all had Alzheimer’s. The older one expressed it first and his wife soon put him in a facility and he passed shortly after. When my father developed it my mother was determined not to put my father into a facility and lived with him in a unfamiliar city and unfamiliar housing, through at least one year of hell, and then he fell, and two months later passed.
My mother was a resident of a memory care facility for 3.5 years, My wife or I saw her every day usually, we usually visited to sit with her for lunch,during which time we made friendships with other residents and their families. While my mother did not have Alzheimer’s—she suffered a stroke, memory loss and aphasia—most of the other residents did.
One personal observation I made was that while its a nice thought to care for your “loved one” in your home, its a big price to pay for both care giver and loved one. The ‘loved one” may increasingly make hurtful verbal expressions, may express physical violence, require 25 hour s a day attention, and require everyday cleaning, BMs, teeth, fingernails, etc. Taking care of these “ daily business” requires a major commitment of time of feelings, there is no one to say thank you, to appreciate it and it can get flity dirtyand physically unpleasant.
When your loved one is in a good residence, professional care givers are there to do this and when a good residence is chosen, they will do a good job. This means when you visit your “loved one” you can give 110% of your effort to creating a meaningful experience for both of you. My wife and i used to take mom out for lunch on Sunday and two hours before I would call to let them know I was coming and the caregivers at the residence would have her clean, dressed nicely and a nice“Have a good time Lynn” as we went out the door. They take care of the basic work, not so you don”t have to do it, but so when you go there you can focus on making it a special experience.
One thing I tried to do with my mother was on each visit to share an experience not between a mother and son, not between a normal person and a stroke victim who lost memory, but an experience that was just of two people. It may only have lasted five seconds, but for those five seconds the both of us are just two human beings, and over the days and months those moments add up like a savings account in the bank.
Here are a few examples:
1. Go shopping. Get out, walk around, its free, she can see things she likes and the experience will be visually stimulating.
2. Go have ice cream, its fun and most older people have a sweet tooth and do not have to worry that adding a few pounds will make them less sexy.
3. Look at photos and try to identity special people, I am sure somewhere the memory inside can be reached, if only for a moment and when it happens they feel good. Here is mom touching the image of her husband (they were high school sweethearts).
Take a nice juicy orange on your visit and two people eating together, both sharing the same good taste is a pleasant shared experience. Or just sit with him/her, enjoying just being there, they know you are there and appreciate it.
These are all easy things things to do, they do not cost much and can result in moments of shared human experience with your loved one and for a moment transcend the unpleasant realities of the situation. Its good for both people. The benefit of having your loved in a memory care residence is that it enables you to focus 100% on the quality of each experience.