This week I had the opportunity to have my 85-year-old Dad visit me from Minnesota. He usually travels here a couple of times a year but has not come for quite some time since the Pandemic hit. Dad was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and so I wasn't sure if having him fly here alone was such a good idea. But, after many discussions over our weekly phone calls, I could tell in his voice that he was ready to get out of there for just a bit. I knew he needed some sunshine, outdoor fun, and a granddaughter fix.
Spending quality one-on-one time for a week with my Dad gives me a clear indication of how he progresses with this disease. I flew over to Minnesota last July with my daughter and spent a week with him in his environment. But, when he arrived here, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see just a slight decline in his memory function.
My Dad's father had Alzheimer's and ultimately died of it when he was in his late 80's. This disease is so complex as most people are very healthy in their bodies yet see a gradual decline in their minds. Dad's doctor recently told him that he had the heart and body of a 65-year-old man. He has always been extremely healthy, vibrant, and witty. I can see how frustrating it is for him when he can't remember what we just talked about just minutes ago.
We can help individuals get through this mind deterioration with a sense of dignity, determination, and joy. Below are my suggestions;
- Talk about the past. The short-term memory is the first to go, so ask questions about long ago. You will be sure to have great conversations that bring much happiness and fulfillment.
- Make it simple. Create environments that are easy to navigate in the home with little clutter and easy access to the necessities. Label bottles with everyday things needed such as skincare, medicine, food items, etc.
- Familiar faces. Avoid crowds and ensure that you surround them with people they already know. Not only will your loved one feel more comfortable, but you can also be at ease with those that lovingly understand.
- Keep a Calendar. Get a calendar that your loved one can write on and keep track of daily and weekly events and tasks. These can include everything from when to take medicines, going to events, or remembering birthdays.
- Exercise the mind. Make sure your loved one has plenty of things to keep their mind active. Crossword puzzles, name searches, and books to tinkering in the garden or having a home project to work on are all excellent activities. These things will continue to give a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
- Hygiene and health. If your loved one lives alone like my Dad, this can be tricky. Remembering to shower regularly, do laundry, and eat the right foods at the right time are things that can get a bit confusing. Luckily my sister lives close enough to check on him to make sure he stays on top of things.
As we age, certain things seem to wear out faster than others. For some, it can be hips or knees, and for others, it can be the mind. But, what I know for sure is that regardless of what goes first, we can always make the best of what we have to make it last as long as possible. It is essential to continue to help others live their best and most beautiful lives forever.
My affirmation for you this week is:
"I will cherish every moment I have with my loved ones and will continue to help them live their best lives."