Yes, walker races… Exactly what it sounds like… You may recall that I work at a memory care facility, Starlight Village. I want to give some insight, because I know not everyone knows the pain of having a loved one in a place like mine, and I honestly pray you never do, I hope for many healthy years for your loved ones, and yourself. I implore you to also watch the note book, it gives a great perspective on today’s topic. Here is a typical Weekend.
Every 3rd Saturday of the month, we have some sort of “Race” or “tournament” to get the residents up and moving(They have a work out day 2 or 3 times a week of course, but this one is always special and well planned out). I was lucky enough this Saturday to be there for the walker relay race.
All of the furniture was removed from the Dining room, so that there was plenty of room for them all to move about. We have 15 residents, so it was 3 teams of 5. Three residents would race walkers around the small course in living room, and tag their next teammate. Each contestant got a cookie and a medal at the end of their lap, and the winning team, got to choose what we had for dessert that night. It took an hour to finish the relay race, but the residents loved it, and we had extra staff this afternoon, to make sure none of the residents got hurt. It may have been the slowest race in the history of races, but goodness it was a blast. The residents all had so much fun, and are still talking about it a few days later. Of course many of them “I won this medal at a race in 1943”. And the story they tell to come with it is fantastic. Maybe in their mind, or maybe for real, in the past, they really did win a medal at a race. All families try to make it to these Saturday race days.
Normal Saturday nights are movie nights.
This is my absolute favorite day to work, and I always beg to work them, I don’t always get them, but I do try my damndest to get the Sunday worship shift (Morning).
When I work on Sundays, even though I am not Christian, this shift is the most fun. I get to work at 6 am, The first thing I do after clocking in and checking the log book, and shift change; I turn on my custom play list. It consists of songs like “Thy word“, “Down to the river to pray“, “What I Like About Sunday“, “The lost get found” “The End of The Beginning” “Here I am to worship” as well as about 10 others that are more conventional and church favorites. I sing along to them I make break fast, At the moment I am the only person on the floor, slowly my residents begin to wake, I of course do not blast it, but we have to play music during meals, and activities, for so many reasons, its thereputic and doesn’t distract them too much, and it calms any possible behaviors. It’s also just super fun, some of the residents have learned the words to the newer songs, and sing along with me. If we don’t get through the list before Pastor Bill comes, to do sermon and lead in hymns, we pause it and listen again at lunch time. Pastor Bill and his wife, and sometimes their daughter come to our mini Suday service, as well many of the residents families, who will bring juice, or snacks, and end up having a potluck every Sunday. It is very fun and heartwarming. My shift always ends after lunch clean up. But I live for these Sunday mornings. Around Christmas, they do a living story of Christmas. It truly is beautiful.
It always warms my heart to see our residents feel like they belong, and forget that they are in a secure facility. They can not just come and go as they please. It is hard for most of them of them. It makes me so sad. I love them all dearly. There are only 4 of the original 15 that were there when I first started at Starlight. It is always hard to see them go.
They tell you, as a caregiver, nurse, doctor, etc. To not develop super strong bonds with your residents/patients. For me this is impossible. They are all so dang sweet and I connect with them in ways I don’t with most other humans. I try not to develop that bond. Because not only is it hard when they leave us, but it is also hard for me to see the ones who’s family just left them on our doorstep and told us to take care of them, feel left out or asking when their son or daughter is going to come see them. Some of them we can’t even get on the phone if they fall or are in the hospital or even if we need an answer to a question. I get so so so so mad.
A conversation I had at work Yesterday.
“Hello? Miss Jones? This is Sin, at Starlight Village.”
“What do you want now?”
” I am just calling to inform you of a few things about your mother, Mrs. Robinson.”
“*sigh* I don’t have a lot of time Make it quick, or better yet email me, if it is not important.”
“*gritting teeth**steadying breath, smile* Sorry for bothering you while you are busy Ma’am, I just needed to tell you that there has been a change in meds, and her tests came back clear, but they want to screen for lung cancer, and also, there is a bbq coming up and I do so hope that you will come, it would mean the world to your mother if you could attend.”
“*sighs again* Listen, Stan, I would appreciate if you wouldn’t call for things like this, rather shoot me an email, and we will not be attending the BBQ. *hangs up*”
“*seething at the phone/ screaming in my head* STAN ISNT EVEN CLOSE TO MY NAME, NOR AM I A MAN!!! WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK WOMAN, UGGHHHHH”. I wanted to call her back and ask, if she wanted us only to contact her after her services have been held. If it were my mother, or grandmother, I would want daily updates, even if it was just a quick text, ya know?
Mrs. Robinson has recently declined in lucidity recently. She has started to call me Vanessa, which is her granddaughters name. Asking me questions about school, and parties, and last week she thought it was Christmas. Some of the girls I work with don’t play along with her, but they really should because. It’s fun, and the woman doesn’t have family who cares really, so it gives her comfort. I enjoy seeing her smiling wrapping Christmas presents and asking if I remember when. Telling me stories.
Have you heard this song? It also gives a great insight on what it’s like to be around someone with Alzheimer’s/ Dementia.
This song, I really relate to. A lot, it makes me cry inside, because I know how it feels.
Many people don’t realize, how scary memory loss can be. To one minute be lucid, another to have no idea where you are or why you can’t just walk out the front door to the grocer. Why the nice lady in scrubs is handing you meds but you clearly are not in a hospital. To feel like you wrong if you are told “No, there isn’t a cat under that chair” or that it isn’t Christmas, when you were JUST wrapping presents in your room. That there aren’t pirates ransacking your room. To not be able to convey what you are trying to get across. You know what you need but like a toddler you can’t form the words. So you get angry and start to throw a fit. You don’t understand fully why you can not do things by yourself and why the nurse lady is constantly helping you do certain when you are certain you can do it yourself. To feel like your food is poisoned, or your wife just died, when in reality it happened 40 years ago, or the reverse, she’s still alive but she doesn’t live with you, so you feel like she’s left you for another man. Maybe you think you are 10 years old but the adults around you are unfamiliar. It’s scary, it’s sad, its dark. Our world does not make sense to them…
Our job, as family members, friends, care providers, is to know that we have to enter their world, and to play along, as long as it doesn’t hurt themselves or others what is the problem? What’s wrong with having Christmas in August? what’s wrong with answering to a name that is not yours? You know who they mean. Our job is to be their light and their comfort. To let them know they are still humans, and loved. To stand for the families who can’t be around.
I know how hard it is to deal with family members, to feel like giving up. It is fine to ask for help, it is fine to place them in a home that has the resources you lack, it’s ok to cry and scream and take a break from it. But please, ask your self this one thing. Is ok to abandon them? To completely wash your hands of someone who completely adores you? to leave them alone on holidays with out so much as a call, to make a random stranger fill in for you? Is this how you hope to be treated when you are in the same position as your loved one, Heaven forbid? Give some thought, you now have help, is it really such a chore to pick up a phone and say hi, or pick up a pen and write a letter. to go to the dollar store and pick up a random trinket and mail it off for Christmas.
“Do unto others only which you wish done unto you.”
Well thankfully with this harsh reality, comes a softer one. There are angels amongst men, There are community resources that provide guardianship and power of attorney for those who don’t have family involvement, and angels who volunteer in places like Starlight Village, who come and visit, volunteer there time to bake cookies with Miss Betty, or play checkers with Mr. Jonhson.
IF you have the time, please please please go down to your senior centers, and care facilities, see if they have a volunteer program, or even find out what you would have to do to “adopt” someone. Play Santa, give a call to a lonely old lady/man. Let them Feel loved. Don’t take that love away from them, let them love you, don’t make them leave feeling unwanted. IF you are a family member who has decided to wash your hands, please, consider at the very least being nice to the people who have stepped in on your behalf and are caring for your loved one, and let go of the grudges, because you should leave this earth with out regrets either.
If you want a full list of my Sunday worship list I can post it in the comments, or if you have suggestions for me to add, I would adore that.
What is your experience with this type of thing?
Are you a caregiver? How do you handle something like this?
Please, If you know someone who may find this beneficial share with them ^,^ post it at work if you want!