Love every moment. Even the challenging ones. That’s where you grow.
I work in an assisted living facility as a caregiver, which is comprised of
thirteen twelve residents, all with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or both in varying degrees. It comes with a flux of emotions, both for the resident and the staff. Each moment is different than the previous one, all to literally. It is all too true that each person is affected by both of these differently, and there are changes in all of them from day to day.
For example, one of the residents whom I have the pleasure to know is a very witty, feisty 98 year old woman. She is visually impaired (blind) and uses a walker. She has moderate to severe Dementia. Her husband owned a boat company, so a lot of their time was spent in the water. Sometimes, as I get her ready for bed, as I lay her down and pull the covers over her, she asks when we will port. I tell her I’m not entirely sure, but hopefully soon. Other days, in her mind she is a child, and she is calling out for ‘Momma’. She is tired, or scared, or hungry. She speaks as a child, very sweetly, and innocently. Other days, she is panicked, or angry, unsure of everything around her.
Imagine a world that you cannot see, except for blurred shapes moving ceaselessly around you. Then try to picture what is going on inside of her brain. She is constantly shifting from one period of life to another. She is out at sea, or late to pick up the kids, or she wants to be cuddled because the thunder scares or. Or, she is upset because she does not know where she is, or where her husband has gone out to, even though he is passed away. This only touches the surface, in the briefest sense, of “what it is like” to be a sufferer of the disorder. This is just a glimpse of one person. The other eleven have very unique, interesting stories, and also a dark monster to wrestle with in the form of a host of problems.
To quickly make a distinction between Alzheimer’s and Dementia,
Alzheimer’s is classified as a disease of the brain, whereas Dementia is a disorder. Dementia presents as impaired functioning in daily activities in one or more areas, as well as memory difficulties. This includes various cognitive functions such as speech, judgement, attention, planning, and the list continues. Dementia itself can be caused by various things, from heart conditions to vitamin deficiencies. In some cases, Dementia can be reversed. Most of the time, Dementia is not reversible due to various factors, including when it was discovered in the person, or their underlying health complications that coexist with the disorder.
"The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, accounting for as many as 70-80% of all cases of dementia" (DeMarco, 2013). Alzheimer’s is impossible to diagnose entirely for sure until after a person is deceased, because it takes an examination of the brain itself.
One of the most important lessons I have learned while working here is patience. I work around people who, in their lifetimes, have been very successful. Teachers, artists, veterans, outdoors men, and many other things. They have worked so hard their entire lives, and it is worthy of the utmost respect.
Here I am, a twenty-something, fresh out of school, bound to achieve something. Still trying to put my finger on the exact nature of that something, but hey, in due time, all things will unfold.I still have so much to learn. I must have patience when my residents are upset, if they may yell at me, or not understand me. Understanding that they are not in control of their actions is a part of this. Having empathy for their frustration, because I cannot begin to know how they struggle. Doing something for them that they deserve not because of who they are, who they were, but because they are human, they deserve decent care, and they too have loved ones who only want this for them as well.
I have found a sense of pride for the first time in my job, that I actually make a difference on a small sense. The principles I have carried with me throughout life are magnified, as though I had brushed them off in hurry. They are screaming at me and I cannot simply leave them to collect dusk.
So I leave you with a set of things that I must continue to do, because I am gifted with the reality that life is all too short. Unfortunate things happen to all of us. Working with these wonderful people has again reminded me how to live.
1. I will never stop setting goals, and working to achieve them.
2. I will always follow my heart, no matter where I end up.
3. I will always make the moment count.
4. I will let those who matter the most to me know how much they mean.
5. I will continue to try to keep myself grounded, to keep growing.
-To recognize my weaknesses and learn from them.
-To know that deep down, my life will not have mattered unless I have helped many people.
I do not want to live life in a singular boxed world as I did before.
I want to destroy you in the most subtle of ways. I want to fuck you until you collapse, gasping for breath, spasming. I want you to forget to go to work and spread this moment out through the day. Taking random breaks, of course, for movies, cereal, and art.