Dementia May Not Be An "End All" Condition
What a victorious, glorious day I had! That’s the only way I can describe it. Even with dementia, I had managed to teach a class to senior citizens AND be part of a presentation to another group of seniors. Please indulge my musings…
I design and teach classes to help strengthen one’s mind by using one’s senses of taste, touch, sound, touch, and sight. It takes me hours…days…weeks to put together each class. I research, compile information, write the lesson plan, gather materials needed, and load the computer with presentation “stuff” (a technical word LOL). I am helping myself as much—if not more—than the seniors to whom I give my presentations. Last year, I made five presentations (one per sense). Those who attended loved coming and said they would be back this year. I couldn’t re-teach the same lessons, so I have had to make up whole new lesson plans for each sense. Again, this is helping me more than I can tell you. However, even with all this successful research and writing of a lesson plan, I still have a big roadblock—my short term memory loss. Thankfully, my “clients” are very obliging and overlook my shortcomings. I have to literally read from my lesson plan most of the time. (It has taken me some time to accept this—for more than 34 years I was able to teach without paper in hand…) I guess I balance my shortcomings with a whole lot of humor. I can laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously. I look at the positive points in life and do not dwell on what WAS, but what IS. (In some ways, I guess I have decided to accept myself for who I am NOW and work on making myself better. I push myself to be the best I can be.) I hope I impart hope and humor as I teach other senior citizens. I had fourteen seniors in my class this week. They were super “students”, open and supportive of one another. They were eager to learn, asking many questions. As we did different exercises, the seniors were not successful all the time…but, as I told them, it wasn’t important that they got the right answer, but that they exercised their mind using their senses. Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! I told them I could see their brains with a set of barbells just pumping away!!! It was a very successful class, and all left saying they’d see me next month for the class on TASTE. And now it starts all over… I am researching, compiling, writing, getting ready… You get the picture!
My second part of the day involved a community volunteer activity associated with our county’s Cooperative Ministry of Aging, of which I am a board member. Three of us went to a senior apartment complex to explain our programs of Meals on Wheels and the Telephone Reassurance Program. I had the task of talking about the Telephone Reassurance Program. That should have been an easy enough task, but having such limited short term memory, I found that I had to read almost word for word from my script. The talk went well, and I was able to inject some of my humor into it, but I think I will approach it differently in the future. Next time, I am going to list key words and talk from that. I know everything there is to know about the program, so I think I will be able to present the information in a more natural way by using just the framework of key words and phrases. The residents were receptive, and we even had three sign up for the services right there on the spot—so I call that great success!
Looking back over these two events, I see that it is possible for someone with dementia to continue being an active and supportive member of the community. It is NOT easy sometimes, but life is not always easy. Just the fact that I can still function so highly—even if it means gobs more time and effort than someone without dementia—tells me that early dementia is not an end to life. It IS an end to life as I once knew it, but it does not end my potential for a positive and productive present.
To my friends out there with dementia, keep plugging away. Push yourself. Play those brain games. Do crosswords. Listen to music and allow it to bring memories to the forefront. Try to remember the artist. Take time to just close your eyes sometimes and listen…what sounds can you identify? (And, forgive me, but I must interject this: if you close your eyes and you hear nothing—get your hearing checked! Fifty percent of those aged 65 have some hearing loss.)
Don’t give up! Do whatever you can to make your brain pump “them there barbells”!!!