by Priscilla Pittman, MSW, MA
Alzheimer’s Arkansas Programs and Services
Do we participate in a community group or attend a particular church or temple and enjoy doing for others? Providing time and effort for others whether or not we know them is a rewarding experience.
But we really don’t like to have needs or have others provide for us do we?
Before moving to Arkansas, hospice was my focus. During a hospice training in the 90’s, the leader told us our session would include a foot washing, but quickly urged us to erase the Biblical references that sprang to mind. Instead, she instructed us to see receiving care from the eyes of the patient. Most were in line to pick up the supplies needed to wash feet, no one wanted to have their feet washed. But soon friends opted to take care of one another, until our leader announced we could only participate with a total stranger. Some donned a good natured attitude and slipped off their shoes, or gathered washing utensils, but the person assigned to me was an angry, young woman who resented the assignment since she couldn’t wash her friend’s feet. Quickly she dunked my feet in a pan of tepid water, soaped, rinsed and partially dried my feet before she scurried away. She did not say a word.
I was seated next to a woman who sighed when her feet were immersed in the warm water provided. Her “washer” looked at her, spoke to her, and slowly soaped, rinsed and dried carefully between her toes. She even applied lotion and massaged her lower legs. I watched with moisture still evident between my toes.
This was a prime example of doing a job with love and care versus doing a job to “get it done”. As one who received “un-care”, I felt slighted in one regard, but honored to have seen the proper care given to another and to have learned a valuable life lesson as well.
Families often have similar scenarios with children or siblings providing the same type of care. Others would be grateful for even the smallest contribution because they are carrying the entire load. But despite the long, arduous hours the overall picture is one of gratefulness. Some have overcome past issues to reclaim personal health, forgive, and find a new relationship with a family member. Caregivers have wonderful stories; each support group meeting inspires and confirms my belief that out of adversity springs solutions!
One caregiver reported seeing something on HBO some time ago that examined the benefits of hugs and affection. She was now the caregiver for her mother, and was increasingly frustrated by the personality changes and behaviors contrary to conduct she had known. Recalling the television production she hesitated, but although they had never been an affectionate family she decided she had nothing to lose. When preparing her mother for bed she asked if she could give her a good night hug. It was a nice long hug (7 seconds is recommended), and she believed the results were soon evident. Her mother was less angry and more compliant and our caregiver also smiled more. Every night they hugged, and when she forgot one evening her mother reminded her. The results benefited her as well; she was now enjoying her new role as caregiver and daughter.
Life may present a circuitous road with ample potholes and more detours than we like to find. But we all know those who prevail and complete their journey with gratitude; and although they lack material wealth consider themselves wealthy beyond measure.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s Arkansas please call or email us at 501-224-0021 or [email protected]