A caregiver’s gentle persistence pays dividends for a woman living with dementia and her daughter
Four years ago, when 88-year-old Lucy fell and broke her hip, her daughter, Katie, knew it would be the start of something new. She moved her mother, who has dementia, into an assisted-care facility. It’s an all-too-common story: Two more falls, two more broken bones, and Katie worried ceaselessly.
And then Nicole came along.
Katie had contacted BrightStar Care, and Nicole became Lucy’s caregiver. For Nicole, working with Miss Lucy, as she calls her, is more than a job.
“I like to treat others as I want to be treated,” says Nicole. “If it were my mother, grandmother, or another loved one in the same situation, I would want someone to be loving to them. When it comes to Lucy, I come to work prepared to love on her.”
It’s the little things
Katie describes her mother as an “80-pound force of nature” who likes to stay up late, sleep in, and has her own way of doing things. Lucy likes her clothes hung a certain way in the closet, her bed made to military standards, and to go outside on a sunny day.
Lucy can be demanding, and sometimes stubborn, and Nicole tries to get it right the first time. “I pay attention to little things that make her happy,” says Nicole. It didn’t take long for Lucy and Katie to notice—and appreciate—Nicole’s attentiveness.
With Nicole’s gentle but dogged encouragement, Lucy has also started eating dinner in the dining hall, playing Bingo, and occasionally staying for Happy Hour. “Being among the other residents…makes her feel better than being in her room,” Nicole explains.
Katie is amazed, and grateful, to see her mother so well cared for and engaged in life.
“When you climb up that same mountain and get pushed back down day after day, you finally think, ‘OK, let her have her way,’” she says. “But Nicole encourages (my mother) every day. That doesn’t mean she’s always successful…but Nicole continues to try.”
“It’s more than myself or anyone else has been able to accomplish,” she adds.
“It’s an arduous task to be a caregiver to a cranky, elderly dementia patient who has had their independence stolen from them. And, because of the dementia, my mother’s not comprehending that Nicole’s there to help,” says Katie.
Nicole takes the repetitive conversations and uncooperativeness in stride, doing what she can to keep Lucy both comfortable and safe. Because Lucy forgets, Nicole keeps notes about doctor’s appointments Lucy schedules and keeps a running shopping list for Katie. Katie admits, “She’s my eyes, my ears, my brain. It’s amazing.”
Nicole has also ensured that nighttime caregivers turn on the lights whenever Lucy gets up. “It’s those little details that has insured this woman’s safety and continued survival,” Katie says.
Nicole finds her work immensely satisfying. As a teenager, she helped care for her grandmother in a nursing home. “Seeing how my presence could light someone up just for a few minutes or a few hours, even with Alzheimer’s, it really touched my heart,” she says.
“(That experience) planted a seed. From then on, I’ve just cared for others,” she explains.
The last year and a half has brought tremendous gains not only for Lucy, but Nicole and Katie, too. Lucy remembers Nicole’s name now, which means a great deal to the caregiver. For Katie, the greatest gift is the peace of mind that lets her sleep soundly at night. “All the things that used to cause stress or worry—they’re gone,” she says.