Anna Rosemary and Alzheimer’s Disease

hands

image from my cell phone camera

I work with dementia patients for my job. I would like to share this touching story with you that happened last year.
I have an old woman with dementia in the unit that has severe disorientation of time and place. I will refer to her here as Anna Rosemary.

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Anna Rosemary is a sweet lady. She cannot put her words together to make any sentences that make sense. She expresses emotion clearly through facial expression, gestures and the volume and tone of her voice.

If she is sad then she cries. If something amuses her, she laughs. When she sees me she always smiles.

Sometimes when i get to work she looks at me and says “thank God.” which means I have not seen you around, I am glad to see you back.

I stopped to talk with her one night. She likes to talk back and forth. She listens and she responds but her words do not come out the way she wants.

She says to me “I feel like I am cuckoo.” I was surprised at this because it had not occurred to me that she was aware that there was something wrong with her brain.

I repeated it back to her to make sure I had understood her. I said “Anna Rosemary. do you feel like you are cuckoo?”

She said “Yes. I am trying to figure myself out.” I was amazed at the clarity of this sentence. I must have taken a huge amount of effort for her to force her brain to put that sentence together. That shows how important it is for people to communicate their feelings to another person.

I gave her a hug and told her that her brain was being a bit cuckoo and I did not know why. I told her that I still knew her and loved her. I could still understand how she was feeling.

I told her that I feel a bit cuckoo sometimes too. Something happens with our brain sometimes. But that she was still Anna Rosemary.

She hugged me and said “it is hard” I asked her if she felt it was hard to put her words together. She hugged me tighter.

I said to her, “you still know love. You still have a beautiful heart and know what love is.”

“You don’t have to keep trying so hard right now to put the words together. You are full of love and I love you.

She and I stood there and I held her and kissed the top of her head.

Anna Rosemary hugged me back, and felt comforted, as did I.

She stopped worrying about putting her words together for a while and took my hand to walk with her into the living room area. We just walked together , holding hands for a while in silence.

Sometimes there is more love in silence than with a lot of talking. If she can still love people and needs to be loved then love itself must transcend the basic functions of the brain.
Love and the need to be loved is more powerful than the rational, cognitive parts of the brain.

Even when most of the brain is not functioning properly, love is still alive and thriving.

The brain is the ruling organ of the body. It controls every function in the body, including language processing and speech.

But even with all of those functions damaged, the capacity for love is in tact. There is something very special about our ability to love.

Is There Still Magic in Your WorldI

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I need magic! I love magical moments and magical ideas. To me life is very boring without some kind of magical sparks here and there to spice it up. Here are some things that I consider magical.

1. Balloons I love balloons! I love the way they float in the air. I love the way they have a mind of their own and they will go whichever direction they feel like going, in spite of where you tell them to go!

I love the way the alzheimer’s patients eyes light up when I get the balloon out. They all smile and have so much fun just playing and batting the balloon back and forth in the air, with me. It is one of my favorite things to do at work.

In fact I am the one that usually stops at CVS pharmacy  to get balloons when we run out. No matter how bad my anxiety may be before I get to work, the magical powers of the balloon can make it better. I can almost feel my blood pressure lowering, from the first time one of the residents smiles and holds out their hands to catch it.

I love the way little children are entranced by the balloon and how it floats and flies in the air. They love the way it feels when they touch it. To really amaze my little niece,  I can rub in against my hair and make it stick to the wall.

2. Creative CollaborationCollaborating on a creative, inspiring project can have a magic all it’s own. I have a very good friend that like to collaborate with me on business projects like redesigning his web site or coming up with new slogans.

The two of us work together in a perfect harmony and once the inspiration begins, we bounce ideas back and forth off of each other. It is .almost like a dance, where one of us takes the lead and then the other one steps together and the two creative minds do things that neither one of us could do alone. That is magical and fun.

3. Random Dancing –  My friend Hanorah, is a very old woman that lives in the assisted living where I work. When she sees me in the hallway, she always puts her hands out and says “Time to Dance!” It does not matter who is around or what part of the building we are in.

Once we even danced in the elevator, on the way up to her floor. She just takes my hands and begins to dance to the music in her head. Then I will sing something for her, like “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and she sings along with me. She always loves to see me, because I will dance with her, just because.

4. BunnyMy bunny is magical, as most bunnies are! He hops and plays. He even hops into the air and makes a turn right in the air, to change direction and to be silly. He kisses me on the lips and he dances a special love dance around my feet, which is like a figure eight, going around one foot and then the other.

When he wants my attention, he will get it. If I am typing on this laptop, for my blog and he feels left out, he will jump right up and land his bunny butt right on this keyboard that I am typing on now. He just sits there, with his fuzzy butt in my face, and won’t move. So funny!

Once he took my cell phone away from me. I was talking on the phone, to my boyfriend and the bunny hopped over, took the cell phone with his teeth, and pulled it right out of my hand. He tossed it on the bed and then hopped away. So funny! Bunny is magical because he can make me smile no matter what my mental state it. He can always get a little smile from me, because he is so animated like a cartoon.

5. Bubbles Bubbles are magnificent as they are blown in the sunlight outside. They float way up in the air and catch all the colors of a rainbow as the sun reflects off of them. Bubble are fun indoors too. I have a bubble necklace (you can get them around valentines day ) that I can wear and when the alzheimer’s residents are least expecting it, I blow some bubbles into the air and they love it !

I also just like sitting outside and blowing the bubbles to see how they float. It is relaxing and magical.

6. Spending the entire day on the phone with a very special friend –  which is what happened today. My best friend, who is usually too busy working to be on the phone with me for more than 30 minutes at time, during the daytime, was off today! He stayed home sick in bed and I am sorry about him being sick. But he has been getting better throughout the day, as we have been on the phone.

He kept me on the phone for company all day, from 11 am this morning and he is still with me, but I hear him sleeping now. It is 10pm. He fell asleep a few times on and off and I just kept doing what I was doing and stayed with him, so that I would be there when he woke up, for comfort.

I went out to the store and back, and did some other errands, but we stayed on the phone together anyway. I just brought him with me. It was nice to be needed for comfort and I loves having the company all day. Too bad he only does that when he is sick. But I am thankful for the wonderful day together.

7. Blogging Blogging is magical in many ways but there is one that is most significant to me. You get to meet and connect with people in a deep and meaningful way. These are people that you would otherwise never have met, because they live so far away from you.

8. The Floating Lanterns in The Picture on the Top of This Post These lantern are beautiful and they look like they should have some magical element to them, to me.

9. The Laughter of Children – The sound of children laughing naturally, because they are children! It is a wonderful sound.

10. Dr. Seuss Dr. Seuss stories and all the creative nonsensical characters are magical. I love their funny hair and the funny creatures. His stories like The Cat in the Hat. Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who and The Lorax are very special and I have never gotten to old for them. (but on the other hand…you are taking advice from someone who still plays with balloons and bubbles LOL )

Let’s have some fun, since I feel in a good mood today, because I felt supported all day, by my friend. You all can put the things that are magical to you, in the comments below and that way we can all learn about each other.

I did leave out my favorite magical thing in the world to do…but I was trying to keep this a post G rated!  LOL!

Ok, so what are Your Magical items, Activities, and Magical Moments? You can think back into your past, if you want to. I did that for this post also.

Blessings,

Annie

Lack of Compassion for Depressed Nursing Home Residents

Something happened at work that really offended and upset me. It is so disgusting that nurses, doctors and other people in the health field are so insensitive and uneducated about mental illness. Health care should be about the whole person and not just their physical body.

We have a resident that lives in this particular facility who suffers from moderate to severe depression , that fluctuates from time to time. Sometimes she is very depressed. When she is in  that downward spiral , she tends to stay in bed. She will still eat if food is brought to her room, but  she does not want to go out to the big dining room and interact with people.

Being an introverted person myself, I can attest to the fact that it is very traumatic, triggering, and extremely anxiety provoking to have to be in a room full of people when you are is a state of depression. You simply cannot do it.

Forcing yourself to go out amongst people who will not understand your mood, is not a good thing to do to your brain. All those people having small talk and asking you “how are you” is like a torture chamber.

So, this sweet little old lady was in a very depressed state today. We will call her Nora. So, i went in to visit Nora at 4pm, when I began my shift.   I could see that she still had her pajamas on and had not been out of bed all day. This is a clear sign that she had spiraled down into a depression state.

She said that she did not feel well and that she did not feel up to coming out to the big room for dinner. I went over the dinner menu with her and together we decided that she would eat scrambled eggs and toast in her room. I then left the room to place her order with the kitchen and requested a tray be brought to her room. The kitchen was no problem.

Then I went back to Nora’s room to let her know that the tray had been ordered. As I opened the door to the room, I saw that my supervisor (the charge nurse) was in the room, speaking with Nora. The supervisor said to me that Nora would have to have a “Sick Tray”.

I learned today that  Sick Tray is a tray that they give to people who have a stomach virus and are too sick to eat a real meal. It is to keep them from vomiting up all of their dinner. You know when you have a tummy sickness, you don’t want to eat .

The Sick Tray consists of hot tea, gingerale  jello, and toast . It is not something that you are supposed to force on someone. It is mainly to make sure that they have something offered to them, even if they say they do not want to eat at all. What it is not , is something to be used to withhold food from someone.

Yes, that is what I said. Withhold food! So sick, isn’t  it ??

This nurse said to me the following, “Nora is not sick. She does this all the time. She is JUST depressed. She is saying she is sick but she is not.  If she is going to stay in bed sick then she gets a Sick Tray.”

I asked her if there was any physical reason Nora could not have the scrambled eggs and toast that she wanted.

The nurse said “NO. But she does this all the time that she refuses to get out of bed. If she is going to fake being sick just because she does not feel like coming out, then she can just have a Sick Tray”

This is punishment. This is a clear punishment of someone because they have a mental health issue. This punishment is unfair and will cause the depression to get worse. Poor Nora was hungry and did want to to eat. She asked for the eggs and there was absolutely no reason she could not have them.

The supervisor was so disgusted by Nora’s continued pattern of depression ans self isolation that she decided to punish her by actually making her go hungry.

I was so upset and angry but there was nothing I could do. i did go back in to the room late in the shift. I won’t say weather ot not I snuck her in a snack. What is your guess? (wink, wink )

But what if I had not been there? This will happen again and again. To make her go hungry and to treat her with such disrespect, is detrimental to her mental health. It further isolates her.

She was willing to have me visit her in the room. The right thing to do would have been to bring her whatever she wanted from te kitchen and for me to sit with her while she ate. Then I could spend some time to talk with her about how she was feeling and she would have at least had a dinner she enjoyed.

What else can I say? I have hundreds of stories like this. I have collected them for 5 years. There is little or o compassion for people with mental illness in these facilities.

There are a lot of elderly people in nursing homes that have severe depression due to the many losses they have experienced. They have lost their home, their spouse, their car, their drivers license, their pets and many of their friends and family have passed away.

it is a very hard time of life and many people end up depressed and isolated, when they become old This is a horrible failure of the health care system and a lack of compassion from health care workers.

More awareness and re-training of the nurses is needed, if people are going to have lives worth living in the long term care facilities.

Blessings,

Annie

My Patient with Alzheimer’s disease / dementia is Afraid I will not Find my way Back to Her Again

My sweet lady, I will call her Rosalie, always cries when I leave work for the night. She also gets upset when I leave to go for my dinner break.

I always have known that she likes me there and that she is sad when I leave. But it was not until tonight that I finally realized just why it is so traumatizing for her. Now that I realize it, I can make it better for her.

A visiting nurse came to see Rosalie today. Rosalie took an instant shine to her and  felt very safe with her. The time came for the nurse to leave and poor Rosalie was holding her by her jacket and not letting go. She was crying and begging her to stay.

The nurse and I both tried to reassure Rosalie that she would come back to see her tomorrow. Rosalie said “no she won’t. She has to stay here.”

After the nurse left , I told Rosalie that she would be back tomorrow. Rosalie then said something that has never occurred to me before. She said “No she won’t. How will she find me again? How will she find her way back?”

That is when the realization came over me. Rosalie does not know where she is. She used to have a home and now she does not know how to get back. She does not know where that home is. She could not find it, even if we gave her the car keys and let her go.

She is so lost in time and space that she assumes that everyone else is too. The fact that the nurse happened to find Rosalie today, does not necessarily mean that the nurse can find her tomorrow.

Poor Rosalie feels so lost that she does not think anyone else knows where she is either. She does not understand that other people can find their way home and then back again to find her.

It was a great moment of realization to me. In her world, she is lost. She has no idea how she got to this place where she lives now. As far as she can tell , it is a lost place that no one can find.

Her family does not come to see her, so she must think they are lost and cannot find her too.

So. when she is crying at the end of my shift when I leave, she is truly afraid that I will not be able to find my way back to see her again.

So then, I explained to Rosalie that the nurse and I were good with finding our way home and back to her again. I told her that the nurse had found her way here today on purpose and could find her way home.

I explained to her that I had found my way to see her many times. It was not an accident that I ended up here. I assured her that I know how to get to where she is and that I would never lose my way to her.

This seemed to help.  From now on, I will remind her that I know how to get to where she is.

I will not lose her. I love her very much and will find my way back to her every time.

It reminds me that we all live in different realities. Our experiences form our perceptions and our feelings.

When we try to understand people by looking at their situation from our reality, we cannot truly have full compassion for them.

In order to understand, we have to listen and see that their world is different from ours. That includes the world they perceive in their mind. It is the only reality they know.

People who have been abused, people with PTSD, people with mental disabilities and people who are very poor have a very different reality than others.

It is true for many situations including people who have sick children, people who live with chronic pain, eating disorders, alcoholism and addiction.

In order to have true compassion we have to know that others see and feel things differently than we do.

Namaste,

Annie

Our Capacity for Love

I work with dementia patients for my job. I would like to share this touching story with you that happened last year.

I have an old woman with dementia in the unit that has severe disorientation of time and place. I will refer to her here as Anna Rosemary.

Anna Rosemary is a sweet lady. She cannot put her words together to make any sentences that make sense. She expresses emotion clearly through facial expression, gestures and the volume and tone of her voice.

If she is sad then she cries. If something amuses her, she laughs. When she sees me she always smiles.

Sometimes when i get to work she looks at me and says “thank God.” which means I have not seen you around, I am glad to see you back.

I stopped to talk with her one night. She likes to talk back and forth. She listens and she responds but her words do not come out the way she wants.

She says to me “I feel like I am cuckoo.” I was surprised at this because it had not occurred to me that she was aware that there was something wrong with her brain.

I repeated it back to her to make sure I had understood her. I said “Anna Rosemary. do you feel like you are cuckoo?”

She said “Yes. I am trying to figure myself out.” I was amazed at the clarity of this sentence. I must have taken a huge amount of effort for her to force her brain to put that sentence together. That shows how important it is for people to communicate their feelings to another person.

I gave her a hug and told her that her brain was being a bit cuckoo and I did not know why. I told her that I still knew her and loved her. I could still understand how she was feeling.

I told her that I feel a bit cuckoo sometimes too. Something happens with our brain sometimes. But that she was still Anna Rosemary.

She hugged me and said “it is hard” I asked her if she felt it was hard to put her words together. She hugged me tighter.

I said to her, “you still know love. You still have a beautiful heart and know what love is.”

“You don’t have to keep trying so hard right now to put the words together. You are full of love and I love you.”

She and I stood there and I held her and kissed the top of her head.

Anna Rosemary hugged me back, and felt comforted, as did I.

She stopped worrying about putting her words together for a while and took my hand to walk with her into the living room area. We just walked together , holding hands for a while in silence.

Sometimes there is more love in silence than with a lot of talking. If she can still love people and needs to be loved then love itself must transcend the basic functions of the brain.

Love and the need to be loved is more powerful than the rational, cognitive parts of the brain.

Even when most of the brain is not functioning properly, love is still alive and thriving.

The brain is the ruling organ of the body. It controls every function in the body, including language processing and speech.

But even with all of those functions damaged, the capacity for love is in tact. There is something very special about our ability to love.

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