Meeting the Challenges

“I forgot my nose today”, said a neatly dressed and somewhat distressed 60-something lady. Barbara smiled knowingly at her and offered her a Kleenex; before turning her attention back to Current Events Discussion Group. A half -dozen elders were seated around the table sipping coffee or tea from mugs in anticipation of the daily newspaper review. Each of the members of the Sheltering Arms Adult Day Center looked at Barbara and smiled as she began this morning ritual with, “Today is Monday, 250 days until MY birthday.” Her opening remark would always bring giggles and responses about their birthdays and open up the floor for current and past experiences. A positive attitude and sense of humor are two key components for meeting the challenges of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Barbara knew that although, the members of the group might not remember or be able to communicate what was said, they would remember how they felt.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that there are 4.5 million people AND their families living with this devastating disease today. That’s the Bad News. Many times the Alzheimer’s patient looks the same as they did yesterday and the day before. Family and caregivers may not understand why he/she is acting so strangely. If one breaks a leg, it is obvious and understandable that they cannot walk and might be irritable due to the discomfort of that temporary injury. In time the fracture will heal. That is not true for individuals with a “broken brain”. It is not temporary and the condition will become more challenging for the patient and the family. It is important for the family to maintain a positive attitude, educate themselves about the disease, focus on what their loved one CAN do, and seek assistance when needed.

The Good News is that help is available. In addition to the Alzheimer’s Association, The Area Agencies on Aging and other local agencies and churches sponsor day programs. The Centers can provide positive experiences for the patient and temporary relief from the challenges of care giving. It is important to look for a safe and secure environment, but look closely at the attitude of the staff. If you find someone like Barbara there, then you will feel confident that your loved one is being treated with respect, warmth, and a huge helping of laughter. 
For additional information on Aging issues Administration on Aging.

About the Author:

Joyce Roe Flaugher has an MA in Psychology with concentration in Adult Development and Aging. She developed and directed the Sheltering Arms Day Center in Houston Texas. Ms. Flaugher completed the development and licensing for the Alzheimer Day Center, in Honolulu, Hawai`i. She served as a licensed nursing home administrator and consultant for fifteen years, and was an adjunct faculty member for the Community College Districts in Houston and San Antonio.


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