I recently read a Facebook post concerning my uncle who is in the beginning late stage of Alzheimer’s. It was describing how he had become belligerent on that particular day and no one was able to calm him. No one that is, until his grandson, who is an aide at a local skilled nursing facility stopped by. He immediately put the skills of empathy, distraction, compassion, understanding, and professional knowledge that he had learned through years of interaction with the elderly and those with dementia to use. Soon, my uncle was the calm, genial gentleman we were all used to. I was truly touched by this post, the caring of this grandson for his grandfather, the recognition by the others in the situation that they were ill equipped to handle the emerging issues and their prompt call for appropriate reinforcement. It was an inspiring post all around.
That is until I read the comments. Many were like mine above, complimenting the grandson, sympathizing with my uncle and the family, worrying about the future, etc... But the overwhelming majority simply wanted to offer their thoughts and prayers. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints with thoughts and prayers, as a born again Christian I welcome them. However, as someone who has been one of the primary caregivers for both my parents who suffered from dementia and as someone heavily involved in the care of my brother who had vascular dementia and as someone currently suffering from Lewy Body Dementia himself, I can tell you that much more is needed than just thoughts and prayers.
If you are one of those leaving the thoughts and prayers comments have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, you are the answer to those thoughts and prayers. After several days of no sleep, incessant incoherent conversations, possibly intermittent cat naps, probably screaming, crying, shaming, and abuse, just a few hours to bathe, take a decent nap or possibly have a real, adult conversation can be more restorative than someone who has never been in this situation may ever realize. The dementia patient may see you and spark some long forgotten memory that brightens their life for days or minutes. For them/us, sometimes it’s much the same. Running a few errands to pick up meds, a few groceries, the dry cleaning, anything really... can be a major relief.
What I’m trying to say is thoughts and prayers are important, don’t stop sending them, but actions are important as well. YOU, can be the answer to those thoughts and prayers. Your life may be busy but you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve dealt with a chronic illness such as dementia and see your loved ones slowly destroyed mentally and physically...and there’s little or nothing you can do about it.