No Place Like Home: An Alzheimer's Story

November 15, 2016
For Peggy’s mom Jean, there really is no place like home. Jean was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012 and shortly thereafter broke her hip, winding up in rehab.

“It was awful,” says Peggy. “Her progression in her Alzheimer’s just accelerated in those 35 days in the rehab.”

The family realized then that a facility would not work for Jean; she needed to stay in her home of 40 years. So they put an addition on the house and Peggy, her husband, and their two children moved in.

Then came the challenge of finding an in-home caregiver. Peggy tried three agencies, all with poor results. It seemed like they would need a miracle. What they got was a saint.

“We call her ‘Saint Veronica,’” says Peggy, referring to the BrightStar Care caregiver who spends days with Jean. “Veronica’s best feature is her ultimate patience. When Mom gets agitated, Veronica will just try to calm her down, try to change the focus. Veronica will find 25 other things to engage her with.”

Must Love Dogs

In Veronica, Peggy’s family found their perfect match. Peggy says, “[BrightStar Care] really tried to understand the right fit for our family,” which includes five people and two dogs all under one roof. “We’ve had a care provider who was afraid of dogs. My mom wants the dogs there. Veronica gets that.” Jean petting her stuffed dog“She loves her dogs,” says Veronica. “When she’s upset or tired, the dogs come, and she pets the dogs, and you see the smile on her face.”

Mornings are a hard time for Jean, who can wake up disoriented, unsure of her surroundings. To help, Veronica has taken to greeting her each morning with the dogs.

“Seeing the dogs there helps her to calm down and know that she’s home,” she says.

The dogs, a black lab and mid-sized mutt, aren’t exactly lap dogs. So Veronica also helps Jean feel close to her pets by taking a little stuffed dog and setting it in her lap, bringing it to life by manipulating its body and making gentle barking sounds.

“I say, ‘oh here is your pet,’ and she starts to touch him and she gets happy,” says Veronica.

A Morning Ritual

Jean and Veronica reading the daily newspaperBringing in the dogs helps Veronica create a sense of normalcy and joy for Jean, who has reached the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

The same goes for reading the newspaper, which they do together every morning. “Mom comes from a generation of ‘let’s sit around the table, have coffee, and talk.’” says Peggy. This has included starting every morning for 40 years at her kitchen table with the newspaper, so the time Veronica spends paging through the paper with Jean creates calm. To keep Jean engaged, Veronica will point out stories related to Minnesota, where Jean lived for many years and still has family.

True Team Effort

The close, one-on-one time Veronica spends with Jean not only allows her to connect with her emotionally, it’s enabled her to find practical techniques to make daily life easier.

“Veronica is constantly figuring out new ways to help mom take pills or get ready for bed,” says Peggy. “Then she turns around and teaches us that. It feels like we’re a seamless team between the days and evenings.”

Veronica loves being a part of the team. “I love my job. It’s rewarding,” she says. “I like that when I finish my day, I feel like I have accomplished something. I have made a day in Jean’s life count. She’s alive and she can be happy and enjoy her day with family and at home.”

Read more about the care BrightStar Care provides for Alzehimer's and Dementia.