Posts Tagged ‘love’

Why I Volunteer to Visit People With Alzheimer’s

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

I had just returned home from my weekly visiting and was sitting lost in thought. Lost in the memory of my just-completed visit to Ruth (not her real name).

She was quite confused that day. She told me that she had tried to rent an apartment that she liked very much, but before she could conclude the deal they fixed it up for someone else. I knew that wasn’t true but I empathized with her. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said.

Then I changed the subject to something pleasant. “I see you have some Sees candy here. Do you want a piece?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Will you have a piece with me?”

“Of course,” I answered. “Gimme that box!”

When I finally told her it was time for me to leave, she got a pouty look on her face and asked, “Oh, do you have to go?”

“Yes, I’m afraid I have to leave now. I wish I didn’t, but I’ll come back and see you next week.”

Then she walked with me to the door. She put her arms around me and hugged me very tightly.

“Oh, I sure am glad you stopped by. I depend on you. You’re my friend,” she said.

“I love coming to see you,” I said.

“See you next week,” I told her as I went out the door.

“See you,” she said, smiling and very gently closing her door.

This is why I volunteer. I felt warm all the way home. And I’m looking forward to next week when I can “find” the candy and enjoy some. But mostly so I can see Ruth again and experience the warmth and love we have in our very special relationship.

 

 

The Profound Innate Joy in Human Life – Alzheimer’s or Not

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

After a pleasant drive to the Alois Center on a crisp fall day, I arrived and walked down the hall to Ed’s room, wondering what type of mood he was in that day.

When he first saw me his eyes lit up and he said “Oh, it’s you! Oh, I am so happy to see you! You are an angel! I am overwhelmed to see you! Oh, I am overwhelmed!”

He took my hand and kissed it several times, continuing to say he was overwhelmed and didn’t have words to say how happy he was to see me.  His eyes were shining, his face was full of joy, and he held my hand, kissing it again from time to time. That was so typical of Ed – ever the quintessential European gentleman.

He was so happy that he was near tears. Now I don’t have words to describe how his joy and his being near tears both at the same time combined to make a unique emotional experience for me. He was so happy that he almost cried.   While we were sitting on the sofa I picked up The Little Yellow One, one of his beloved stuffed animals, and handed it to him. He reacted joyfully and as though he had never seen it before.

“Oh, the little one. I love him so much!” (He referred to all of his stuffed animals as ‘him.’)

His eyes lit up again and he petted the little animal with loving strokes and then kissed it several times on the top of the head with an affectionate expression on his face.   His extreme joy to see me and his intense love for the little stuffed animal affected me to my core and I realized that some people with Alzheimer’s have the innate capacity to experience joy that can’t be put into words by a normal writer like me.

I was so happy to see Ed in that wonderful state of being, and I felt warm inside all the way home.   If only we all could feel such joy from a simple visit from a friend.

Does anyone else have stories to share about joy with your loved one?

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things People With Alzheimer’s Taught Me

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

I was a caregiver for Ed, my beloved Romanian life partner, for seven years when he had Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, I currently volunteer to make weekly visits to four women who live at Clare Bridge, a Brookdale Senior Living memory care facility in Overland Park, Kansas. (I refer to them as “my ladies.”) Here are the ten most important lessons these people have taught me.

  1. Simple pleasures can bring great joy to a person with Alzheimer’s
  1. People with Alzheimer’s usually enjoy getting gifts – no matter how small
  1. Pets, children, music and art may reach them on levels we cannot
  1. Just because they don’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly aware of what’s going on around them and what people are saying to and about them
  1. There’s usually no reason to tell them someone is dead (Tell them a white lie instead – that the person will be back soon)
  1. Correcting them about something will probably either embarrass them or else start a big argument
  1. People with Alzheimer’s usually adjust to change more quickly than we do and they soon forget unpleasant things that happen to them. We may be the ones who continue suffering
  1. They can still enjoy life, even if only for brief periods of time
  1. People with Alzheimer’s may remember past love and also experience love in the present
  1. People with Alzheimer’s can be humorous at times – Then we can laugh with them.

 

When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s – Realization vs. Acceptance

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Realization and acceptance are two different things. It’s one thing to finally realize someone close to you has Alzheimer’s. It’s a completely different thing to accept that fact.

After months or even years of being in denial, most people finally realize Alzheimer’s has struck. But many people never really come to accept the situation. Some never become at peace with the diagnosis and all that it means. They know it in their brains, but as hard as they try they can’t accept it in their hearts.  The bold truth is so painful we can push it to the back of our minds.

To come to terms with Alzheimer’s we must first let go of the previous person and embrace the new person – just as they are. And since that person will continue changing as time goes by, we must constantly let go of the old and accept the new.

We must fall in love again with the person as he or she is in the present and let go of the person we used to love. That person is never coming back in the same way they used to be.

We must learn to let go and learn to love again.

5 Things I Learned From People With Alzheimer’s

Friday, February 21st, 2014

1.    Pets, children, music and art may reach them on levels we cannot: I have experienced numerous examples of the positive effects these things can have on people with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes pets, children, music or art can bring about connections even with people who no longer talk or recognize their loved ones.

2.    Just because they don’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly aware of what’s going on around them: One of my ladies didn’t talk anymore so when I visited I just held her hand and talked to her softly. When I told her she must be very proud of her daughter she adamantly shook her head from side to side, indicating ‘no.’ That told me she understood perfectly well what I was saying.

 3.    Correcting them about something will probably either embarrass them or else start a big argument: To avoid embarrassing the person or, even worse, to avoid a major argument, try agreeing with whatever they say, even if it’s wrong. It takes some time to master this approach, but it is usually successful.

4.    They can still enjoy life: Many people assume that people with Alzheimer’s can’t enjoy life. However, several experts I interviewed unanimously agreed that although Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, people who have it can and do still have the capacity to enjoy life.

5.    People with Alzheimer’s may remember past love and also experience love in the present: Once I showed Ed an old picture of us together. He said, “Ah . . . She loved me.” He didn’t realize I was the woman in the picture but he remembered that she had loved him.

 

What a Person With Alzheimer’s Taught Me About Love and Beauty

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

When we think about a person with Alzheimer’s we rarely think they could teach us anything about life, love or beauty. And in many cases they don’t.

I, however, was most fortunate. Ed, my beloved Romanian soul mate of 30 years, saw beauty in the staff at his long-term care facility and those who visited him there. He expressed it freely – not only in words but also by holding and kissing the hands of these people.

In addition, he felt that I was beautiful and he frequently told me how beautiful I was. So often that I actually asked him to stop at one point! He also expressed his love for me and it was far more often than he ever did before he developed Alzheimer’s.

Ed said repeatedly how lucky he was to be at the Alois Alzheimer Center and how joyful he was to have all the people there who took care of him. He thanked every person whenever they did anything for him – no matter how small.

Mary, the housekeeper, went in one day and emptied his waste paper basket. He thanked her then kissed her hand.

“You are so beautiful and I am so lucky to have your help. I really mean it,” he added. “It’s from my heart – not just words from my lips”

A week later, I was singing out when Maria, the receptionist on duty that day, turned from her computer screen and told me, “I bet that Edward was a real lady’s man in his day. Every time he comes up here he tells me I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, and that it’s not just words from his lips – but that he really means it from his heart.”

Then I realized that no matter how advanced his dementia, Ed still had the innate capacity to feel and express beauty.

How wonderful it would be if we all experienced and expressed the beauty we see in people and the love we feel for them.

This is what I learned from my loved on with Alzheimer’s.

Has anyone else had a similar experience with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s?

 

When It’s Alzheimer’s: Realization vs. Acceptance

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Realization and acceptance are two different things. It’s one thing to finally realize someone close to you has Alzheimer’s. It’s a completely different thing to accept that fact.

After months or even years of being in denial, most people finally realize Alzheimer’s has struck. But many people never really come to accept the situation. Some never become at peace with the diagnosis and all that it means. They know it in their brains, but as hard as they try they can’t accept it in their hearts.  The bold truth is so painful we can push it to the back of our minds.

To come to terms with Alzheimer’s we must first let go of the previous person and embrace the new person – just as they are. And since that person will continue changing as time goes by, we must constantly let go of the old and accept the new.

We must fall in love again with the person as he or she is in the present and let go of the person we used to love. That person is never coming back in the same way they used to be.

We must learn to let go and learn to love again.

Does anyone have any experiences about this to share with other readers? Have you gone through this experience? How did you handle it emotionally?

 

Nursing Home Placement Can Be the Most Loving Choice

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

No one wants to live or place a loved one in a long-term care facility, but sometimes it’s the most loving choice. This is especially true for Alzheimer’s patients in the mid- to late-stages of the disease. They need so much more care than any one person can provide at home, even with people coming in to help.

Does anyone want to share their experiences with placing a loved one in a nursing facility? What was it like for you?

For more on this topic see my Huffington Post with the same title.

Love Remembered Despite Alzheimer’s

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Here’s a true story that illustrates that people with Alzheimer’s can remember and experience strong emotions related to a past event even if they can’t remember the facts surrounding the occasion.

One day I’d decided to show Ed the cards and photos I’d found in his storage unit while I was cleaning it out.

“Ed, I found some old photos and cards that I sent you many years ago and I’m going to show them to you today.”

“Marvelous!  Superb!” he answered.

I started with the cards. He laughed at the funny ones and was more seriously about the others. Next we looked at the photos. There were several pictures of Ed with me from the ‘80s and ‘90s. The last one was a picture of him from 1985 with a woman standing behind him. She had her hands on his shoulders and her head was peeking around his, facing the camera.

Ah . . . She loved me,” he murmured, an affectionate expression on his face. He appeared mesmerized and kept looking at the photo in silence.

I was stunned. He didn’t realize that I was the woman in the photo, but he remembered vividly that the woman in the picture had loved him. He remembered and experienced the affect.

“What are you thinking?” I asked when he didn’t say anything more.

“I’m thinking of love,” he said softly.

“I’m that woman and I still love you.”

He looked up and gazed into my eyes exactly the way he did when we were lovers all those 30 years earlier.

It was surreal. I couldn’t tell if he was in the past or the present. I decided it didn’t matter.

 

The Innate Capacity to Feel Joy – Despite Alzheimer’s

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Here’s a short story from Come Back Early Today that shows that people with Alzheimer’s can still feel joy.

When I entered Ed’s room one day he was asleep and actually snoring in his wheelchair. It took quite a bit of effort to wake him. But after a few moments his eyes lit up, he lifted his head and said,

“Oh! It’s you. Oh! I’m so happy to see you. You’re an angel. I’m overwhelmed to see you.  Oh, I’m overwhelmed!”

“I’m happy to see you, too,” I said, sitting down on the sofa, wondering what was causing such an outpouring of joy and affection.

Then he looked in my eyes and said in a most serious tone of voice, “Since I became in such high admiration of you, other beauties didn’t exist.”

His eyes were shining, his face glowed, and he held my hand, kissing it again and again. I wanted the joy he felt to last, and so I picked up Adorable and put him in his lap, hoping that would elate him even more.

“Oh. The little one,” he said, looking at Adorable. “I love him so much,” he added, picking up the bunny and holding it tightly against his chest.

It was as though he’d never seen Adorable before. His eyes glistened as he caressed the little animal and kissed its head several times. Then he carefully put Adorable on the sofa, turned to me, and kissed my hand again.

His happiness at seeing me, and his affection for Adorable touched me deeply and I realized that no matter how demented Ed might be, he still had the innate capacity to feel joy. It made me feel joyous too.