By Victoria A. Schmidt
I wish to share with you some information about something that is near and dear to my heart. It is about sharing your time with your friends and family who live in nursing homes or assisted living homes. Specifically, your friends with memory problems.
The process of losing one’s memory is confusing, humiliating, and lonely. Simply put, it is similar to the body rejecting your own life and memories. What happens to the personality is devastating. Of course, every case is different yet time and time again, I hear the patient repeating that “nobody likes me anymore” and they can become bitter and lonely.
I asked people why it is they don’t visit their friends. It is complicated. Sometimes they feel embarrassed if they meet their friend for lunch or dinner. So, they stop the activity. Sometimes they are uncomfortable about what the patient will do or say. Maybe they will call you by the wrong name, or remember your face, but not your job or how they know each other. What we need to remember is that you are visiting your friend. So they use the wrong name. Simply say “Hi” ask how he or she is doing. Talk about general things, like sports, shared hobbies. There are endless things to talk about. Don’t worry if you cannot follow their train of thought. You are just going along for the ride. Laugh if you feel like it, cry if the mood is there. Be real with the person. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, what matters is the conversation. The interaction, the humanity. They are sick, it isn’t contagious, and the point is not the logic, it is the interaction. Letting the people know that they are missed. That they are cared about.
My grandmother died from Alzheimer’s as did my mother. I found different things were helpful with each. My mother had early onset Alzheimer’s and when she lost her ability to communicate, we found that music would calm her. Especially Elvis Presley.
Our friends, our family are still “in there.” Share and try to be near their mood. Eventually they will reach a point where they do change completely. But they are still able to respond to voices, sounds, and touch. They didn’t ask for this disease. Put your personal discomfort away for a while and you maybe even enjoy your time. And be proud of yourself for going out of your way to acknowledge your friend or family member.
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