It must be very taxing to care for a loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s or related disorders. I imagine it’s just as difficult to leave your loved one in the care of others, considering the added vulnerability. These were the two thoughts that ran through my head on the day I visited Alzheimer’s Day Services (ADS). I suppose I should have been thinking about how difficult it must be the person who endures the cognitive decline. Still, my thoughts were with the families and caregivers.
When I met all my new friends at ADS, I tried to place myself in the shoes of someone who might be dropping of their mother or brother… or husband. How would I feel about my loved one being a participant in this program?
Jon Burchfield, Development Director gave me the detailed tour of the facility and introduced me to the employees with whom I would be working during my time at ADS. Jon said something that really resonated with me. He told me that many friends at ADS are hypersensitive to body language. At once, I uncrossed my arms and loosened the rigid stance that typically accompanies my nervousness. I looked around the room and noticed the gentle demeanor and warm smiles of all of the Personal Care Attendants who were interacting with ADS participants.
Jon left me with a detailed list of my contributions to the daily activities and introduced me to Activity Manager, Norrell Malone, who put me to work. The first order of business was to prepare and serve water to all my new friends, with a smile of course. I pushed my water cart around while one group of friends was singing and another group was listening to a reading of the newspaper in the warmth of the sunny garden.
The next order of business: Nail painting. Another ADS employee, Ms. Lora, helped me set up my makeshift manicure station. There was very little conversation during my three manicures. However, there seemed to be a meaningful connection as I held the hands of each woman. While I painted nails, sweet Ms. Lora engaged another friend by rolling cloth napkins with silverware for lunch- a very purposeful way of exercising fine motor skills.
Later, the activities switched up and different groups of friends worked together in different parts of the room. While many friends exercised and practiced gross motor skills, I helped with the BINGO, I mean JINGO, station. As a Personal Care Assistant called out clues to Civil War terminology, I helped my friends find the correct words or picture on their cards and place their paper chips on the correct squares. Such great practice with maintaining hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills! After my each friend covered their entire JINGO board, from Harriet Tubman to Robert E. Lee, we moved to another station to exercise!
As my day wrapped up, I thought to myself what a blessing it must be to have such a safe haven for your loved one. Knowing that the ADS staff is working hard to carefully and meaningfully engage and exercise the minds and bodies of each and every friend must be comforting. What a wonderful place!
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