Category Archives: advocacy

Celebrating A Life With Alzheimer’s

I found this touching letter written by a man battling Alzheimer’s.  The author’s son submitted the letter, which was written by his father nearly 10 years ago at the onset of the disease.

…if I fight it and think positively maybe I can conquer this Alzheimer fellow . It would be a pleasure to laugh at him and say goodbye. Think of what you have achieved in the past years and these thoughts will help. You have raised children, and they have loved you and you are so fortunate. Appreciate what you have. You have to be strong, I realize, but you can do it! I volunteer at two hospitals and enjoy taking people to their destinations in the hospital. I sometimes (actually quite often) joke with them. As I am leading patients upstairs, I will humour them a bit by telling them “I am taking you first to Las Vegas” and then we will go up in the elevator. They always laugh and say, “Oh please!” It makes them feel good and I feel good also. Another casualty of the fiendish Mr. Alzheimer is the family. My family takes good care of me but sometimes I feel they are at fault because they are being overprotective. They mean well but it makes me feel like a nothing. In my case, I am on the borderline of Alzheimer’s. I say this because, I am not that bad. I forget names, that is all! I was advised not to drive but I still feel that I can drive better than all the hot-shots on the road to-day. I have not seen the statistics of my condition and on my next visit to my doctor I will ask him to show me the results of my tests. I still play a great game of tennis, I bowl and do all the normal other things that people do, and yet I have this Alzheimer’s’ stigma. Maybe if they (whoever they may be) could live with me and see how I act daily I wouldn’t be put in this category.

To read the entire piece, check out The Birthdays Continue Despite Alzheimer’s Disease.   It will make you smile.

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Filed under advocacy, aging, alzheimer's disease, dementia

I Will

Its hard to believe that next month marks the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  911day.org is reaching out on a collective level to gather ideas and ways to honor and remember this important day in U.S. history while paying tribute to those that were lost in the attacks. The premise is to draw support to make September 11 a day of service in whatever community, capacity or collective endeavor available.  I think its a beautiful concept.

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Filed under advocacy, inspiration, resources, social worker

What Alzheimer’s Disease Has Taught Me (so far)

I’ve been in long term health care for 15 years now.  I’ve worked with and cared for numerous individuals and families who have been touched by the heartbreaking disease known as Alzheimer’s.   There have even been a few of my own relatives who have lived with AD–few aunts and uncles.   Then, a couple years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s-type dementia.

My knowledge base has grown and grown over the years I’ve worked in geriatric care.   More than most anyone, I am well trained and equipped on what to expect and how to handle the myriad of twists and turns that accompany AD.   Still, as anyone will tell you, when it’s *your* close family member who is part of the Alzheimer’s equation, all bets are off.   It’s impossible not to be emotionally invested in whatever happens on this journey.

Granted, I’m a pretty easy-going person.  I try to look for the positive and the lessons that can be found in any situation, no matter how hard, sad or devastating.  (I get this trait from my dad, I believe).  And while my dad is in the early stages of AD at the moment, I realize things can change quickly and that there is no more taking things for granted where he is concerned.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a wonderful online support forum filled with tons of people who either are caring for someone with AD or who are dealing with the disease in some way, shape or form.   I  recently was inspired to add to a great thread where forum posters list what they’ve learned from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far:

  • Many people with AD can still keep their sense of humor through most of the disease process. Looking for the humor in those not-so-great moments can be a life saver!
  • People will forget what you say and what you do for them, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
  • Hugs and kisses go a long way, especially when you don’t know what to say.
  • We’re a society that prides ourselves on our “intellect” and we are trained to live in our heads. Perhaps AD is here in part to teach us to live in and with our hearts more.

I wish this disease did not exist, but I continue to remain open to what it has to teach on an individual and collective level.   The lessons are always there, you just have to be open to finding them.

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Filed under advocacy, aging, dementia, loss theory, social work skills

ElderNews You Can Use (4-24-10)

ElderNews is a semi-weekly round up of links around the web that touch on topics of aging, death/dying and health care.

  • Cognitive stimulation therapy helping dementia patients in the UK.    In the facility where I work, the recreation department has a daily structured program in place that is very similar to this concept for our more severely cognitively impaired residents.  I can tell you the program  does seem to aid in reducing agitation and some other dementia-related behaviors.  It would be interesting to gauge as to whether or not CST has any effects on improving our resident’s overall cognitive capacity.
  • How the Class Act is seeking to set up a Class Program to assist caregivers in managing their loved one’s care at home.  While every bit of financial assistance is a wonderful thing, I would suggest a minimum cash benefit of $100 a day for those with more skilled care needs.   It already costs around $300 per day to reside in a long term care facility, so that would still be a huge savings.
  • I love the insights, tips and glimpses into the world of Alzheimer’s Speaks.  This blog is a beautiful narrative depicting the love a daughter has for her mother who has AD and resides in a nursing facility.  Her post about the “surprises” one can encounter when loving and caring for an Alzheimer’s individual is truly touching.
  • Only about 30% of adults create an Advance Directive.  Doctor’s need to step it up and encourage more of their patient’s to name health care agents and outline their health care wishes before a catastrophic medical event occurs.   More importantly, Advance Directives should be drawn up before an elderly loved one is no longer able to articulate his or her wishes.
  • The American Geriatric Society Foundation for Health & Aging lists tips to ensure caregivers find good long term care placement for their loved ones.

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Filed under advance directives, advocacy, aging, alzheimer's disease, death and dying, dementia, ElderNews, end of life care planning

Social Work Wonder Woman

I like this idea on Nechakogal’s blog asking readers to describe their social work environment via a cartoon-ish character parody.   Now, I can’t really identify with the three options given in the poll:

  1. Cinderella Social Worker– this is the worker who essentially is caught up in cleaning up after her wicked (and wealthy?) clients.  She pushes paper more than she actually engages the people she works with.  She’s a slave to the grind and buried in her work.  Hopefully, a magical Prince will arrive and save her from her thankless tasks and buy her lots and lots of new shoes.
  2. The Firefighter– this social worker is running around putting out fires all the live long day.  Ok, I can kinda relate to this one.  There certainly are some days where it feels like all I’m doing is deflecting one hit after another and getting close to nothing actually accomplished.  Everything is an urgent matter.
  3. Papa Smurf-– This social worker is community-driven and approaches his or her work with idealistic compassion and seeks to unify rather than divide.  Papa is the social worker I think many of us *want* to emulate, but often get sidetracked because we’re busy being firefighters and thinking about new shoes when we’re buried in our paperwork.  (How’s that for a nice tie-in?) 😀

So, I participated in the poll but naturally, had to choose the “other” option.  When it comes down to it,  none of the above truly embody what it is I do or who I sometimes feel like in my practice.   I definitely can see a little of the firefighter tendency in me as a social worker, but it’s not a consistent feeling.   The cartoon/fictional character I believe best embodies the social worker I am and the environment I exist within is…..

You got it.

I’m Wonder Woman.

I’m not trying to be cocky or silly, but after truly thinking about this (and consulting the google gods for a little Super Hero back-story research), I think Wonder Woman is a near perfect fit to describe my Social Work Persona and the general themes that develop in my work.   Per Wikipedia:

Wonder Woman is an Amazon (based on the Amazons of Greek mythology) and was created by Marston as a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.'” Her powers include super-speed, super-stamina, super-agility. She is highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat and in the art of tactical warfare. She also possesses an animal-like cunning and a natural rapport with animals, which has in the past been presented as an actual ability to communicate with the animal kingdom. She uses her Lasso of Truth (which forces those bound by it to tell the truth), a pair of indestructible bracelets, and an invisible airplane.

Ok, so I am no Amazon woman and I don’t wear corsets and thigh high red boots to work.  I also don’t have one of those newfangled invisible airplanes, (however, my salary review is coming up) but, I dig the “feminist role model” and super-speed/super stamina powers.  Hell, I’m a damn speedy and efficient social worker!  I can get a lot accomplished and still be a client advocate.  Those traits definitely represent me on a lot of levels.  And I have this uncanny ability which warrants people (clients and non-clients)  to divulge their life secrets and on occasion, I hear some pretty heavy confessions.  It’s as though I have a symbolic Lasso Of Truth force that emanates from me.  I kid you not.  Also, I have the ability to communicate with my cats.  We talk to each other all the time.

So there it is.  I am Wonder Woman, Social Worker.  Hear me roar!

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Filed under advocacy, social work, social work skills, social worker