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 andFacebook for more stories, information about Alzheimer’s disease, and ideas to help care for a loved one with dementia.
For Anna’s father Robert*, the prospect of dementia threatened his very identity. Robert had worked for years as a prominent figure in the medical and business worlds, so his dementia diagnosis undermined his sense of self as a capable leader. It took a special kind of caregiver to make him feel comfortable and secure.
Enter Lucy, a BrightStar Care caregiver. “Lucy is a highly intelligent woman,” says Anna. “She has a lot of skill-sets that work really well for my father because she was once an executive. When she speaks to him, she speaks as one executive to another, but at the same time she can be respectful. It’s a real fit.”
“I talk to him as an adult, I don’t baby-talk him,” says Lucy. “When a man has experienced the level of power that Robert has, you need to treat him with respect and dignity.” Little gestures can go a long way. Robert sometimes uses a wheelchair, so Lucy positions herself carefully to be ready for his every move. “I never stand or hover over him to talk to him. He sees that as dominating or threatening so I get on his level, kneeling down,” she says.
Dressing the Part
Lucy and Anna work hard to create a sense of continuity as Robert’s dementia progresses. This includes not just how they talk to him, but how they get him ready in the morning.
“My dad likes to be dressed impeccably,” says Anna. “Even at his age, he is dressing the same way that he has all his life. Lucy knows that that’s his history, and she pays attention down to his belt, shoes, and rings.”
Lucy was also the first caregiver to give Robert the newspaper in the morning. With this simple act, she reinforced Robert’s lifelong efforts to cultivate a deep understanding of the world and current affairs. As he reads and throughout the day, she’ll engage him in discussion about politics, one of his favorite subjects.
Keeping Passions Alive
Arizona Scenic Drive. Driving Down the Road During Scenic Summer Sunset. Summer Trip.
Robert has many passions in addition to politics, and Lucy arranges afternoon excursions to ensure these passions get fed. This can include visits to movies, shows, and car showrooms, such as Lexus and Tesla. “My father was a huge car lover,” says Anna. However, excursions don’t have to be grand affairs. Robert loves when Lucy brings him along to the specialty market where they buy his favorite white fish, or takes him on walks through his property.
“He loves to see his property—the things they’re building on it, the landscaping. He’s very particular, so he’ll ask me to tell Joe [the gardener] that something needs to be trimmed.”
Of course, sometimes an excursion isn’t an option, as with Robert’s love for travel. In these instances, Lucy gets creative. “He was really missing Hawaii,” she says. “Since a visit wasn’t possible, and he loves his home theatre, I said, ‘I think there’s a show you would like.’ It was Hawaii Five-0. He loves the action and seeing the ocean and beaches.”
Part of the Family
Ideas like these come easily to Lucy because she’s developed such a close connection to Robert. She shares her knowledge with Robert’s other caregivers, creating training documents for them, and with the family as well.
“Lucy has really helped me understand all the different aids and tools that I as a daughter can use to help my dad be more comfortable, even if it’s just a specific kind of cushion for him to sit on.” says Anna. “She gives so much genuine love and attention—she really acts like a family member.”
The feelings of love go both ways. “I was telling the family that my mother had dementia,” says Lucy. “I was in a totally different career at that point and wasn’t able to care for her. [Robert] enriches my life—we have our moments, they’re fun, he’ll laugh, and he has a great smile with dimples. I love going to work with him.”
*All names have been changed to protect anonymity.
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