They say that it takes a truly special person to work with individuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia yet I have a hard time looking at myself that way. I’ve worked in a nursing facility for four years now and I am the least of what makes the Alzheimer’s/Dementia journey “special.”
Since beginning my job at a nursing facility I’ve grown quite passionate about working with those diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s or Dementia. For anyone who doesn’t know what these diseases are I’ve added the dictionary definitions below.
Alzheimer’s: progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common cause of premature senility.
Dementia: a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.
Although these definitions contain a high-level of accuracy, I dislike adding a definition onto the journey I see my residents embark on. Each person is so unique and each day brings something new.
Family members will approach me and say, “I don’t know how you do it, I could never handle your job.” But with all due respect to those individuals, it isn’t me they should be in awe of. It’s those who are going through this disease with a smile on their face that deserve the praise. Witnessing each and every resident adjusting to their “new normal” where despite their best efforts they aren’t able to remember how many grandchildren they have or what their occupation was or if they’ve ever traveled outside of the state they currently reside in; that’s who makes these diseases so special. The battle these human beings fight everyday is incredible. They’re incredible.
I have the pleasure of getting to know these individuals through the lens of a very ruthless disease. There are good days, there are bad days and there are ugly days. My residents’ symptoms present themselves in periods of uncontrollable crying, the desire to flee caused by fear, anger that’s turned into physical actions. None of this is their fault nor is it something they have control over.
Spending time with these residents and learning what triggers their fear or anger and also discovering how to refocus their attention on something that makes them happy has become a developed skill of mine. I love being the person to crack the code of what’s upsetting them and seeing the look of trust come over their face when I work hard to provide them the environment they feel the most comfortable and safe in.
Each resident has a story and sometimes they aren’t capable of expressing that story verbally. Call me crazy, but I believe that their soul tells my soul their story through the time I spend with them. Speaking with their families, learning what songs put a sparkle in their eye, seeing pictures and hearing their laughter all add value to my life.
Anyone can give me credit for working the job I work, it’s easy to say that I’m making a difference and maybe I am. I credit my residents because they don’t care how I dress, what car I drive, or where I live. They show me the true meaning of selflessly loving another individual and wanting what’s best for them. Through them I have learned the true importance of life– which is spending time with those who matter to you, because our time is so limited with one another. I have never been more blessed to work with the people I work with.