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
The Silver Key Club
Alexandra was a very bright, effusive, and elegant lady with Alzheimer’s I took care of in a large nursing home in Colorado in the early 1990’s. She came from a rich family, and consequently lived on the wing of the nursing home called The Silver Key Club, a wing which was luxuriously carpeted, with elegant knockers on all the doors (which were never used), and increased staffing to reflect the extra rent the families paid for that wing. I worked in the Activity Department, in a little office around the corner from the Silver Key Club. Every morning before breakfast, Alexandra would appear at our door, dressed in bright clothes, usually a slightly wrinkled blouse and skirt, shakily applied lipstick and blush, pushing her walker filled with crossword puzzle books, artificial flowers, and Kleenex boxes.
She would always say to us, “Good morning, I’m Alex, and I’ll help anybody I can.” Alex came to virtually all the activities, and true to her word, she would always try to assist the residents who were more confused than her. She would sit next to another resident in bingo and cover the numbers for them. If someone in a group were being disruptive, Alex would gently suggest they listen to the speaker. We loved Alex in the Activity Department because she was our biggest cheerleader, rallying residents in the Silver Key Club to come to the groups. Alex was well-educated and had even been to finishing school as a young woman. I saw a picture of her as a teenager, and always thought that if I could go back in a time machine, I would marry her.
Alex was very energetic, but had asthma. Sometimes when she was in activities or on an outing, she would become short of breath and need a breathing treatment. During the couple of years that I knew her, the bouts of asthma became more frequent and more severe, to the point that she cut down on her participation in groups and stopped going on outings, opting instead to spend more time in her room to rest. The day Alex died was difficult for the staff, because she had been so visible, so helpful, and so full of life. We were stunned when we heard the news that Alex had had a severe asthma attack in her room and was found slumped in her easy chair next to her bed.
I talked to the aide who found her. He told me that when he walked in, he noticed that her bed had been stripped. From talking to her previously, the aide knew that Alex was aware of the facility protocol of stripping a resident’s bed immediately following their death. But no aide had been in there before him.
He realized that when Alex became aware that she was dying, she stood up, pulled the covers off of her bed and onto the floor, and then sat in her chair and died. Her last thought was to save the aides the trouble of stripping her bed. “I’m Alex and I’ll help anybody I can.”
Catch up on passed episodes of Casual Fridays. Here are some you may have missed:
“Elvis’ 65th Birthday”
“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”