Thursday, 18 July 2013

I am bigger than my disease

When a person is diagnosed with a debilitating, progressive disease, it can become huge in their life. For their caregiver, there is so much to learn, it is all-consuming. A new language, how the medical system and the systems of care work, medications, interventions--it goes on and on. If we aren't careful, the disease can become bigger than the person who has it.

It's not. Bigger.

The purpose of this blog post is to challenge you to think in a radical way.

The person you are caring for is still in there, no matter how far their disease has progressed. They still have a contribution to make. They not only take. They can give.

I can still smile
I assist a lady with her meals who has the most amazing smile. I love to say something that causes her face to light up, because it is brilliant. Every time she turns that smile on me, I am blessed.

I can still warm your heart
A gentleman with dementia attended a luncheon with his wife, His confusion is profound, but whenever he attends these kind of events with her, he relaxes and enjoys himself like anyone at a social event. As he left the luncheon, he thanked me, saying, "You fill my life with surprises and my stomach with ice cream." I've held those words close to my heart since then.

I can enjoy
Speaking of ice cream, there's nothing like this delicious treat for calming anxiety. A resident was crying and anxious, and no attempts to calm her were effective. I had just brought out a cart filled with ice cream. "Would you like ice cream? I spoke in her ear. "That would be nice." she said through her tears. A few minutes later, I was feeding her and we were laughing together. It's amazing the power of this simple treat.

I can notice
I tend to wear bright colours to work, especially in the summer. I can't tell you the number of residents, men and woman, who have noticed and commented. Yesterday, and profoundly demented woman turned to a co-worker and said, "I like your eyes."

I can respond
There is nothing like a baby, no matter what your age, mood or mental state. Today, a staff member on maternity leave brought in her three-month-old bambino, and the room just radiated. They talked to the child and gave the mother parenting advice.

I can care
"Where is your lunch? Here, take part of mine." The gentleman whose dementia was far advanced, refused to eat unless he knew I had something, too. It made sense. I started bringing my lunch along.

I can give
Every day, I rub shoulders with all kinds of people with dementia. Sometimes they are fun and we laugh together. Sometimes they are upset and angry. They are often confused, and ask the same question over and over. But every day, without fail, they give to me.

I am richer because of it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this blog, Ann. It's a wonderful reminder that every person on earth has something to give. Your residents' emotional life is as important as their physical needs, and by showing them their value, you are blessing them while they bless you!

    At Celebrate Recovery many hurting people arrive feeling useless. It's wonderful when a participant first realize that there are ways they can serve at CR, at their own church, and in the community. An important part of the recovery process is coming to the realization that you are worthwhile and have the ability to make a difference.

    Every person on earth has issues that plague them, so it's important to understand that we are not defined by them! Your residents are people first, and dementia patients second. They may not understand cognitively the difference, but you can be sure they feel it!