Caring for the elderly was a perfect fit for me. My grandmother had sown into my life seeds of compassion, kindness, and respect. Those seeds grew into a garden of love and support for the “grandparents” put into my life. As a home companion, I visited several women with Alzheimer’s. Each was in a different stage of the disease.
Mary Beth was in her 60s and had recently been diagnosed when I was assigned to her case. She had been a model in her youth and her husband vowed to help her remain beautiful. Library books on how to apply make-up were stacked on the coffee table. “Bob is learning to put my make-up on me,” she said. “He’s so funny, but he does a good job.”
Her true beauty showed through as she handled daily tasks. Her determination was inspiring, as she kept saying, “No, don’t tell me, I want to do this myself.”
She put the dog’s bowl into the sink and proceeded to open a can of dog food. “Now, I know it goes in here somewhere.” She nearly spooned the contents into the sink, but caught herself. “No. It goes in this bowl!” She was very pleased with herself, and I added my encouragement.
Next, she wanted to know what time it was. “Don’t tell me. I’ll find out. One of these things talks to me.” On a shelf of medicine bottles was a small clock that spoke the time when the top button was pushed. “It’s one of these,” she said as she systematically pushed on the top of every pill bottle, finally landing on the clock. “There! This is getting harder every day.” Again she chuckled. I loved her spirit!
I fixed lunch for her and together we enjoyed the porch swing and the birds at the feeder.
Another “grandmother” I met was Mrs. Anderson. She was in her early 90s and lived with her daughter’s family. While they worked, I came in and prepared lunch, encouraged her to ride the exercise bicycle, and kept her company.
She’d had Alzheimer’s for some time but was the picture of health. Her doctor had recommended two minutes of bicycle riding every day. It took four minutes for her to ascend the machine and another three to dismount. Still, she smiled when she was done, pleased to have completed a task. While sitting in the living room, we looked through family photo albums. She couldn’t identify anyone, but enjoyed the scenes. There was a piano in the room.
“Mrs. Anderson, can you play that piano?”
“I think so. I’ll try.” I loved her attitude!
I asked if she wanted sheet music, and she declined. As she poised her fingers over the keys, I doubted she would remember any songs. But without hesitation, she played “Amazing Grace” perfectly.
“That was beautiful, Mrs. Anderson! Do you know any other songs?”
She played several old hymns without flaw. My eyes filled with tears. At that moment I realized that although our vision may dim and our minds may falter, our spirits do not forget.
“I’m tired now. I want to sit down.” We sat down on the couch, and she closed her eyes to rest.
I knew these women for just a tiny portion of their lives. Like watching runners in a race, I was blessed to see them as they were about to break through the finish line. I count it a privilege to have been there to cheer them on!
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