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
Peter was a man with Alzheimer’s I knew when I worked as a nursing assistant in Colorado in the early 1990’s. He was tall and wiry with piercing dark eyes and a bushy, unkempt moustache that completely obscured his upper lip. Peter was originally from Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean, and he always spoke affectionately about growing up herding sheep and playing music. He spent most of his work life travelling around the world with the Merchant Marine. He spoke with a thick Greek accent, and it was sometimes hard to understand him, exacerbated by the slight lisp due to his refusal to wear his dentures. Peter was fiercely independent, rarely attended activities, but would frequently walk slowly throughout the facility dressed usually in sweats that were a bit too short for his long, bony legs.
Peter had the type of dementia that could cause him to become delusional and paranoid in sometimes very elaborate ways. I remember sitting with him in his room and talking to him and helping him play his mandolin, which was difficult for him because of his dementia and his shaky hands. But he still seemed to enjoy it.
Once, during one of our visits, Peter told me a story that was jaw-dropping to me in its details. He motioned with his hands to the left and right: “You see this place, this whole place, I owned it. It was mine. And I was cheated out of it by a goddamn chiseller, Pinto. Pinto owns this place now and I have nothing.” He kept going on about someone named Pinto who seemed to be responsible for everything that had gone wrong in Peter’s life. He picked up a picture of a little brunette girl about eight years old. He looked at the picture and tears welled up in his eyes. “This is my little granddaughter. My precious Amy. My little angel was raped by that monster!” He paused and hissed, “Pinto.” He went on to tell me that Pinto was in control of all the nurses in the building and had instructed them to apply poison ointment to Peter’s butt in order to make it “burn like fire.” Pinto was also the one who advised the government to pump poison gas into his room through the a/c vents. At first, I tried to tell Peter that it was just his imagination, there was no Pinto, but this would just get him angry, so I would usually listen attentively to his stories and just keep assuring him I would do my best to make sure nothing bad happened to him.
One afternoon, Peter and I were having our afternoon visit, and a nicely dressed man walked in with a medical chart. “Good afternoon, Peter, I’m Dr. Pinto. How are you feeling today, sir?” Peter’s eyes widened. “You…are Pinto?” “Yes, I am.” Peter made a twirling motion with his hand. “Turn around,” he said calmly. Dr. Pinto knit his brow. “Excuse me?” Peter continued. “Turn around so I can put my boot in your ass.” Strangely, everyone in the room burst into laughter, including Peter and Dr. Pinto’s visit turned out to be pretty routine and uneventful after this. I realized that Peter had heard the name of his doctor at some point and somehow, in the convolutions of his dementia, he had turned the this man into his nemesis, a chiseling rape artist controlling the nursing staff and the government in an elaborate conspiracy to defraud and torture Peter.
I was relieved in the next few weeks as this delusion gave way to something more vague and diffuse. Peter eventually came to a more peaceful place and before long, I never heard him use the name Pinto again.
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”