As part of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, BrightStar Care is sharing stories, with permission, that showcase real, personal stories of connections between clients, family care partners, and BrightStar Care caregivers. Follow along on our blog and Facebook for more stories, information about Alzheimer’s disease, and ideas to help care for a loved one with dementia.
After her husband Leonard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Melba decided to try in-home care. She thought she was getting someone to help Len shower. She got much more.
“In comes this cheery little thing,” says Melba, referring to Beata, the BrightStar Care caregiver who eventually came on board. “She was all ‘good morning!’ and ‘how are you all today?’ She was so nice to him and to me.”
Indeed, though she was hired to help Len, Beata has had a major impact on both husband and wife, who have been together for 63 years. She attends to Len’s physical needs, from showering to exercise, and connects with him on an emotional level, too. As a result, he’s thriving, and Melba has more time to attend to all the work of maintaining the household.
Above and Beyond
As for showers, the job Beata was first hired to do, she excels there. “After his shower, she cleans the shower stall, washes the towels, dries them, and puts them away,” says Melba. She’s also taught Melba how to use a belt to help lift Len out of his wheelchair should she ever need to help him shower.
Beata’s efforts allow Melba to come and go more easily, knowing that her husband is in good hands. “I used to have to call in a neighbor or a friend to come sit with him so I could do all my errands,” she says. “Now I can have a day out.”
Remembering Old Times
Len’s dementia manifests in his struggles to remember words or where he’s going. According to Beata, this can depress him, so she takes every effort to engage him in conversation and activities.
For instance, when he was younger, Len was quite the card shark. Today, his dementia limits him to playing the solitaire game, Kings in the Corner. Rather than leave him to do this alone, Beata plays side by side with Len; she actually learned the rules of the game from him.
Indeed, Beata never lets Len just sit and watch TV. She’ll pull out old photo albums and ask him about the old days. Through these conversations, she keeps his mind active and has learned about his wedding, his career as an electrical engineer, his time in the Navy, and the Wisconsin lake house he used to love visiting with Melba.
A Brand New Man
Beata pays close attention to these conversations. She’s discovered that thanks in part to Len’s time in the Navy and at the lake house, “he loves water, hot weather, and sun.” With this in mind, she takes him for walks in his wheelchair along the river whenever the temperature climbs into the 80s.
“When he’s not talkative, I will take him for a walk and he comes back a brand new man,” she says. “Suddenly, he’ll be talking about the flowers and how beautiful the scenery is.” It’s obvious what these person-centered connections mean to Len and the impact it’s had on his quality of live.
A daily exercise regimen has helped reinvent Len, too. Beata gets him on his stationary bike and encourages him to push himself. She also does range of motion exercises with him to help his joints. As a result, Len is brighter, more talkative, and happier. Melba and Beata feel a shift, too. As Beata puts it, “I love seeing Len happy. Good things are contagious.”
Read other stories like this and learn more about what BrightStar Care is doing to support Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
Are you looking for answers? We’re happy to help you assess the needs of a loved one and help in any way that we can. We are your local experts for in-home care, including skilled care. We can help you understand senior care including Alzheimer’s or other elder care issue. Call our Greenville SC office 864-599-0452