A couple of posts ago, I came down hard on people who don’t visit loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. My motivation was mostly to share that, at that moment, I felt quite alone in my care-giving responsibilities instead of being part of a team. It wasn’t a call to arms, and yet, boy, have my friends and family responded. J has had more visitors in the last month than I ever remember before, and I am very grateful.
I also tried to communicate that a visit is not only joyous for the person with Alzheimer’s disease, but it can be enormously satisfying to the visitor as well. Our friend, TP, who visited last weekend, says it better than I can. Here’s her report:
I wanted to share with you my visit with J today. It was pretty perfect. I stopped by around 10:30 just to visit. I was on my way back from a tennis game so B wasn’t with me. When she opened her door, she was very happy to see me. I wasn’t sure what we’d do, but I had her show me the terrace. Then I thought maybe we could go out for coffee. She said, “Great.” So we went to the Dunkin’ Donuts. Once there, I saw there weren’t tables but there was a little bar-like area where you could stand and look outside. So we did that. She was happy with her coffee. It was nice and sunny. Then all of a sudden, a flock of birds sailed by. That was cool and J was happy to watch them. I showed her some photos from this nice site ( Planeta tierra) with beautiful birds and animals. She loved the photos. It was very pleasant. So we finished our coffee and walked outside ( in the freezing cold). There was a dollar store and I asked J if she wanted to go and she said, “Sure.” So we did. Cruised around. I asked her if she needed anything. No answer. But she stopped at look at some stuff , said something I didn’t understand and we left. But outside she turned back and said (or motioned) something like teeth. So we went with toothbrush or toothpaste and bingo — toothpaste. So we went back inside, found the toothpaste. She wanted a 2-pack so she would have a spare (more or less got that from the non-verbals). We got the toothpaste and it was a total win! She was happy, we had a nice time, and I got her back to the warmth.
Our son, T, and I visited later the same day. J didn’t remember the time she spent with TP, but that made it no less precious. She did remember the toothpaste. In fact, she happily took me into the bathroom three times to show it to me.
T and I had brought the game of Life with us and figured one of us would team up with J. It’s an old set, and when we opened it up, the spinner was missing and we couldn’t play. J, who often has trouble with verbal communications now, made us understand that it didn’t matter. “I just like to spend time with you,” she said clear as a bell.