Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Alzheimer's: A Wonderful Moment in Time--Mom Dances

Wonderful people.

I have a vivid image of the look on mom's face and of us dancing. I will have that image in my mind forever. This is the kind of moment that really knocks home to me why I am here with mom. Moments like this help keep me energized and focused.

My name is Bob DeMarco, I am an Alzheimer's caregiver. My mother, Dorothy, now 93 years old, suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

One of the biggest problems I face as a caregiver is keeping my mother socialized. If it was up to her she would sit around all day in the dark, rarely speaking. If you have experienced this as a caregiver, you know how really disconcerting this can be.
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About three years ago, I decided to take my mother out to the Banana Boat in Boynton Beach. The Banana Boat is an outdoor restaurant on the Intercoastal Waterway in south Florida. The "Boat" has an outdoor restaurant and an outdoor bar where you can eat and listen to live music. Since my mother rarely speaks when we go out to dinner, I decided we would sit at the bar and eat. I was hoping mom would benefit from being around people; and that, she would benefit from seeing people interact with each other. I chose an this outdoor venue because it has lots of bright light; and, bright light has a very positive effect on my mother's attitude and behavior.

When it came time to eat, my mother ordered chicken wings and french fries--this has always been one of her favorites. I felt a bit of joy when the food came and my mother's eyes almost popped out of her head when she saw--a big basket of french fries. She was delighted. Somehow these moments are becoming more and more important to me.

We had a very good time that night and I decided to do it the next Friday night. Pretty soon we were doing it most Friday nights.

After a few weeks, women started to come over and talk to us. The attraction was an older man with his elderly mother. They wanted to tell us how nice it was to see us. Keep in mind my mother is 92 years old. When they learned my mother was suffering from Alzheimer's disease they became sad. Fortunately, it didn't deter them from coming up and talking to my mother. I am grateful for this.

Soon both women and men were coming over to talk. This was working out better than I had ever imagined.

This new activity at the Banana Boat included: exercise, bright light, and lots of social interaction for both mom and me. I am always trying to find ways to keep "us" socialized. If you are an Alzheimer's caregiver you understand the importance of getting out and around. It is a good mental health break for both the person suffering from Alzheimer's and their caregiver.

The Banana Boat is the kind of place that attracts many of the same people week-in-week-out. Since we go around 6:30 we catch the happy hour crowd many of whom stay until 8.

After a while, a small group of people started saving a chair for my mother--they were expecting us. The first time we missed a Friday, one woman asked for our phone number and told me they were worried about "mom" when we didn't show up. Now we call to let them know when we can't make it on a Friday night.

As time went on, our little group of friends started to get bigger and this turned out to be a "God send". Each week, one by one these wonderful people come up and start talking to my mother. She really enjoys this and her attitude perks up right away. They treat her just like everyone else and talk to her like she is one of the gang. This year a group got together and took my mother to the casino to play slot machines on her birthday. I cannot put into words how much this meant to mom and me.

My mother loved to dance. So, each and every week I asked her if she wanted to dance. Our new friends would also ask mom to dance--men and women alike. I could tell mom wanted to dance but she always said--no. Mom is no longer confident around crowds or people she doesn't know. While her instincts tell her she wants to dance her brain is sending a very different message. I can tell you mom was never shy about dancing and she is a good dancer.

I repeatedly asked mom if she wanted to dance. She repeatedly said, no. One night when we were getting ready to leave, and as mom stood up, I started dancing with her right on the spot. She was shaking it a little bit and had a big smile on her face. By the time we were done, people had tears in their eyes. and smiles as big as big could be. Wonderful people.
I have a vivid image of the look on mom's face as we danced. I will have that image in my mind forever. This is the kind of moment that really knocks home to me why I am here with mom. Situations like this really help remind me how wonderful things can be; and, when the caregiving gets difficult I remind myself of moments like this.
I can assure you it was really a wonderful moment in time.

Bob and Dorothy live in Delray Beach, Florida.

Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 700 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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