E is for entertainment--fun.
The life of a carepartner is full. Medications, doctor's visits, care, new challenges and new problems to solve fill the days. I know there are times it can get exhausting. The last thing on your mind is fun.
Which is precisely why it's important.
It's usually last. It often doesn't "work." It can be as much work as work.
What's the point?
Sarah Rowan, whose husband had Alzheimer's, tells the story of taking him to a baseball game. He always loved baseball and although it was a huge effort to get him there and situated in the stands before the game began, she thought it might create a "moment." All carepartners know about "moments"--those magic times when everything comes together and the light inside comes on. There is understanding and joy and it is beautiful.
Sarah barely knew a football from a baseball, but the team was doing well at the start of play, something unusual for them. She remarked on this to her husband and he said, "Well, it's okay, but next time I'd like to watch baseball." Instead of expressing disappointment, or correcting him, she smiled and said, "You're right. Next time, we will make sure to watch baseball." 1 Sarah Rowan knew a basic principle of entertainment with dementia:
1. You can plan, and it may or may not be "magic." Either way is fine.
Sarah's focus was on serving her husband. Even though he didn't realise he was at a baseball game, they were together on an outing and it was a pleasant time. She could have thought, "We could have had as much fun as this walking around the block for a lot less work." but she didn't. Planning is still important, it's the expectations (yours) that need to be adjusted. That way, just being together can be the magic.
I remember a resident who loved planes. He flew one in WWII. On his 90th birthday, his family arranged to take him for a helicopter ride. Imagine the planning involved in taking a frail elderly man who walked only with the aid of a walker, on a helicopter. However, this time, the planning produced magic, and he was delighted. At 95, he would look at the picture in his room of him being held up by his two sons, standing beside the helicopter. He would say, "I would do it all again tomorrow." That was magic.
2. Often, the magic happens when you least expect it. When it does, embrace it.
Every week, we have a fellow come and play the "oldies" on the piano. He's lively and the music is great, and it's always a good time. It astounds me, however, that with the same entertainment, the same people, and pretty much the same music, some weeks are magic, and some are just nice.
Last week, about 45 minutes into his hour, a daughter was inspired by the music and got her mother to her feet. In no time, they were bouncing to the beat (even though Mom couldn't possibly have stood on her own. I asked a man in a wheelchair to dance and we moved around the room having great fun. Another staff member and a resident stood to their feet and began to move around. The atmosphere went from fun to magic and ended in spontaneous applause and laughter. We embraced the magic.
3. There is magic in every day. Look for it.
Some days are hard, there's no denying it. Today was one of them, as problems barraged me all day, and practically followed me out the door. In spite of this, there was magic, if I looked. A man with dementia laughing at the lunch table at the antics of a care partner. The glow on a resident's face as I whispered in her ear that she looked sexy in her clingy skirt. A man with dementia making a joke that made me laugh.
Entertainment--fun, is an attitude of the heart. There are those who are convinced that a diagnosis of any kind of dementia means the fun in life is over.
They couldn't be more wrong.