Finding Motivation to Care and Connect
Last Thursday and Friday, the staff of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) participated in a special program outside of our office in New York City. I believe motivation is the fuel for everything we do at AFA. In the busyness of all of our activity-mailings, phone calls, emails, marketing our many programs and services, etc., it is important to remember, Why? Why do we do what we do each day at work? Last Thursday and Friday we remembered why.
I had arranged for the AFA staff to spend the morning at The 80th Street Residence in uptown Manhattan, which exclusively cares for people with Alzheimer's disease and other memory loss. It was a time to experience special moments with the residents there. The facility's activities director charged our staff with asking residents different questions written on index cards. The questions were intended to open up conversations and spark reminiscence.
After a while, the AFA staff returned to the meeting room and described their experiences. Residents had shared part of their life stories, and talked about the weather and what they ate for breakfast. One gentleman told our summer social work intern about his love for skiing and classical music. A woman disclosed to our events coordinator that her favorite pastimes were dancing and walking in the park.
However, the aspect that I was most pleased about: each of my staff members remembered the name of the guest he or she had visited--"'John' talked about...or ‘Debbie' mentioned...."
Now, if ever one of AFA's employees is pressed to '"get it done" or asked to work extra hours at one of our events, and finds themselves tired, that person will be motivated to make it happen because of the time spent with John or Debbie or the many others. For some of my staff, this marked their first face-to-face contact with an individual with Alzheimer's disease. It left an impression. They are even more motivated than ever because of the experience.
I took Monday off. It provided a day simply to slow down. It was raining terribly in New York, offering no opportunity for taking a walk or going to the beach. I found myself sitting and thinking about the experience at The 80th Street Residence. The thought? For those of us connected to Alzheimer's disease, it is easy to understand the need to get involved. People are suffering and families are in crisis and pain.
What about others who are not connected in some way? How can we get them motivated? The answer may come from a simple visit, like I had arranged for the AFA staff. Community to community, neighbor to neighbor.
Visits to someone with Alzheimer's disease-whether a neighbor next door or a stranger at a long-term care facility-brings home the reality of this disease. Lots of volunteer opportunities exist for everyone from teens to seniors. A friendly face, a smile, casual conversation, helping out in some way means a lot. And after seeing that these are very real people with a very real-and heartbreaking-disease, how can anyone not be motivated to get involved in the cause?