Casual Fridays are a series of real stories about people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. They are positive, slightly sad but enlightening. I want to show that you can still have intimate personal connections with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Additionally, I hope that readers can relate them to their own experiences. While some of these stories may be funny my intent is not to make fun of people with Alzheimer’s. I intend to change the way that people perceive the disease by showing some positive aspects to aid in accepting Alzheimer’s for what it is.
It has been incredibly important for me to understand my personal relationship with Alzheimer’s. My hope is that these stories can help those additionally affected by Alzheimer’s disease come to terms with how it effects their lives.
A colleague of mine worked in the eldercare industry for seventeen years. He worked in nursing homes and residential communities as a Nursing Assistant, an Activity Coordinator, and a Life Enrichment Director. He currently works with a non-profit organization that assists people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. He told me these stories and shares my views on how important they are. He asked me to share them with you. Please enjoy, I will post a new story every Friday.
-Carlos Barrios, Founder of Endear for Alzheimer’s
Tommy was a man I helped take care of in an Alzheimer’s community in Southeast Portland in the late 1990’s. Tommy was a short man with a serious demeanor, rarely smiling, but with kind brown eyes. His once meticulously combed hair was grey and increasingly unkempt as the day went on. He wore glasses and always a button-down shirt. He had been a Rainbird Sprinkler salesman in Eastern Washington for his work years, and often talked about selling sprinklers to whomever would listen.
One afternoon, I had a group of residents sitting around a table for a coffee and conversation hour. It was getting to the end of the hour, and several of the residents had fallen asleep. Tommy was holding the hand of a sleeping lady named Lucille, who he identified as his wife. He was telling her about his various financial problems because he wasn’t able to sell enough sprinklers that year. He leaned in and said to the lightly snoring Lucille, “I’ll do the worryin’ about it, you do the smilin’ about it.” I was asking him about his “wife” sitting there, and he told me proudly, “I take care of the checkbook, she takes care of the Bible.”
After a few minutes, he started addressing the rest of the people at the table, who were still mostly asleep. He began talking about quarterly profits and projections and I realized he thought he was now at work at the Rainbird office. He kept asking for opinions and input, and when no one responded, Tommy huffed and mumbled, “That’s just like this committee, it just sits on its hands, sits on its hands…” I was in the corner of the room helping another resident into a chair, when Tommy stood up, picked up his coffee cup and walked past me into the hallway. As he passed by me, he said, “I’m just gonna go out back and do some watering.” I didn’t think much of it and continued helping the other resident and then cleared the table and put on a movie. A few minutes later, I walked out into the hallway. No Tommy in sight, he had wandered into a resident’s room, but there in the middle of the tile floor was a foot-long straight line of black coffee.
Catch up on passed episodes of Casual Fridays. Here are some you may have missed:
“Elvis’ 65th Birthday”
“The Silver Key Club”
“Laughing and Singing”
“The Task Master”
“Our 3 Floors of Memory”
“Need to Get Back to Clay City, Iowa”
“Toilet Talk Time”
“Fleas and a Feather Float Together”
“Once a Politician, Always a Politician”
“Positive Post-It Notes”
“88 Keys of Past Memories”
“Fathers of Daughters”