By Vicki Scott
Being that both my mother and mother-in-law suffered from dementia, my passion revolves around helping when I can when I encounter such cases. This passion led me to take every class I could find that dealt with dementia, then working with people with dementia and then being a caregiver for several clients with dementia. I also watched videos by others who were trying to cope with loved ones who suffered from this horrible disease. In one video, the caregiver said that his doctor told him that he had worked with dementia patients for 35 years and no two patients were alike. I am no doctor, but I have found this to be true.
There are some people with signs of dementia who realize that something is wrong and give up their keys and finances to someone else. My mother-in-law was, for the most part, like that. She was a classy lady, and it showed until we lost her.
My mother was a fighter with few moments of submission, and those moments of submission brought tears to my eyes because I knew my mother felt defeated. She worked very hard to make sure she did everything right, but toward the end, working hard did not work. My mother would make frequent phone calls and drive to places to receive help. She lived alone, but she had great neighbors and a church family nearby who checked on her regularly. We visited with her and usually checked through her neighbors and church family to keep up with this very independent lady. This worked until she was confused and scared enough to call 911 on more than one occasion, which alerted her primary care doctor to act.
These memories came flashing back recently when I met a sweet lady who had lost her husband and lived by herself and had no family. My experience with Pat Hill, the director of the George Wallace Senior Center where I used to work, led me to find out what I could to help her. Pat would not stop until she found help for a senior, or anyone in need, for that matter. If one phone call was not enough, she kept calling until she found someone who would help. Pat was and is a person with a passion for seniors, and it was an honor to be trained by her.
My first step in helping this sweet widow lady was to call her pastor to help, but careful not to step on any toes. I was very disappointed, as the pastor was discouraged with her. When he elaborated on why, flashbacks started for me. Everything this sweet lady was doing my mother had done as well. The pastor did not think that the lady has dementia. I wanted to be wrong, but as I said before, I am no doctor.
After speaking with some of the sweet lady’s friends, some of whom she grew up with, a family member was contacted. It turned out that the lady’s primary care doctor had already started the process of getting her help when her family member stepped up. I do not know who this doctor was, but she ordered tests for the lady, who is now in the hospital. Something is not normal with her. It could be medical, emotional or something that can be fixed. The lady’s condition would not have been discovered if the family member had not been contacted (I do not know who contacted this family member).
From what I understand, doctors are supposed to report things like this sweet lady’s situation to the proper authorities. I was with the lady when a sheriff’s department deputy was contacted and sent to her home to decide if she was safe to stay by herself. He said if the lady was not safe, people would be sent to pick her up. We were calling everyone to find someone with whom she would not mind spending the night with. Her friend from high school eventually stepped up, and I praise God she did.
After this situation came to an end, all I could think was what if I was right and this precious lady has dementia? Would knowing as much change how people treated her when they found out?
When I worked in a nursing home, there was a nurse who specialized in caring for the elderly. He was a good teacher who led the training class for Certified Nursing Assistants. I wish someone like him, who had such a passion for our adult seniors, could train every health care worker who deals with the public, especially training in dementia. It might not change a person’s perspective of the elderly, but maybe it will help them understand a little more about their life. We could call it Elder Awareness. If you or someone you know is in a position for such training, please call 1-800-AGE-LINE.
Vicki Scott may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.