Friday, June 4, 2010

Do You Have a Loved One in a Nursing Home Affected by Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

Most of us know how difficult a disease Alzheimer’s is. Many families are unable to keep their loved on home for a variety of reasons, and move them to a facility. This decision is never made lightly, and is usually after an exhaustive effort to keep them home. These decisions are usually full of worry and guilt, because of the inability to “do it all”, and the horror stories of nursing home care. Of course it is best to do diligent investigating when looking for a facility to move your loved one too, but even finding the best facility in your area is not without worry. You want your loved one treated well, and receiving care that is the highest in quality. I have been on both sides, as a nurse working and visiting nursing homes, and personal, as a granddaughter visiting my grandmother, who suffered from vascular dementia.

What I know on both sides of the spectrum is the staff that provides the care only knows the person they see. They do not know the person you know prior to being afflicted with this terrible disease. You and others may visit, have photos in their room, and other trinkets of a past life, but that is only a glimpse of a life previous to dementia. Nursing home staff spends a lot of time focusing on the tasks at hand so their residents are physically taken care of, but little time is spent on emotional care. In my own employment experience and other employed care providers, I know a special thing happens when staff members know the background of the person they’re caring for. This kind of knowledge is a basis for a relationship, and emotional care, rather than just physical care. A previous blog I wrote for Great Places, called Love Letters is my own emotional experience working as an aid in a nursing home at 17. This experience of mine has been the basis of my life working and interacting with seniors.

Years later when my grandmother was placed in a nursing home after residing with family, I felt it was important for the staff to know who my grandmother was, pre-dementia. It is nearly impossible to meet with staff members that would have time to hear about my grandmother’s life, so I decided to post it in her room.

I wrote and framed a letter from her family to the staff of the nursing home. This is what was posted;

My Name is

Veronica Kwiatkowski

My Family Wants You to Know a Little About Me

I am a widower, mother of five, grandmother of twenty –six, and starting the

numbers of what I expect to be many, many great-grandchildren.

I love my family unconditionally.

I’ve made many friends in my life, some over decades and decades.

My favorite colors are pink and blue.

I had a beautiful tulip garden when I had my home, and my lawn was impeccable.

I took pride in my home, and particularly loved to decorate for Christmas.

I shared ice-cream sundaes with my grandkids on warm afternoons at Saunders Ice Cream Fountain

I always liked to look nice, makeup, hair and clothing.

I am famous for my cheesecake, chicken noodle soup, duck soup, and potato kluski.

Polka was my favorite dance, and I shared it with my grandchildren at family weddings.

I loved my husband, and still do, therefore have been alone since 1976.

I love God, and pray daily for my family.

Humor has always been one of my most appealing assets.

Holidays were very special, and I had my whole family come to celebrate together. We laughed, danced, ate, and played cards. These remain very special memories to those who enjoyed them.

I went to church and followed the sacraments of the Catholic faith.

I have had tough times in my life, and wonderful times in my life, and remained loving and caring.

Please know that I am very special to my family, and to God.

My family asks that you give me dignity and respect. That you allow me to keep the small amount of material possessions I have, and enjoy.

That you remember I have feelings, as I remember you do to.

Know that I am a woman that still likes to look nice, and be treated kindly.

I probably have prayed for you today too.

I felt that this letter posted in my grandmother’s room would give the staff a brief description of who she is, masked by an illness called dementia. It gave staff things to talk to my grandma about…memories to recall. If one staff person read this letter and treated my grandmother better because of it, I accomplished what I set out to do. The letter was typed in beautiful font, on linen paper, and framed with a mat of handmade flowered paper. It reflected the beauty of my grandmother and her life.

I encourage anyone worrying about a loved one living in a facility with dementia to reveal the life and personality of your family member prior to the devastating illness they are living with. How you do it is not the focus. Use what I have done or do something creative on your own, but do make it a priority to emotionally involve the staff in your loved ones care. When you witness staff interacting on an emotional level, rather than just a physical level, your worries will be lessened, and care will improve.

This blog is written in memory of my grandmother, who I adored, and all of the seniors and families living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Angil Tarach can be reached for questions or comments at , or

The bobs plotter scratches beside the precedent.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an awesome idea.

    It read like a fine poem; it brought tears to my eyes. It made me think of what I would write for my own mom when the day comes that I need to move her to a home.

    My mom's brother is in a home, suffering from Alzheimer's. I made him a memory book. I scanned all family photos and printed them out on a good quality photo paper. I made him a little scrapbook that he carried around for awhile. He showed everyone his family.

    I also talked to the staff a lot. I told them his story, how he was left with my mom when he was 16 and she was 14, about their mom's mental illness that was triggered when their brother was killed in WWII - all the details that would help them understand his hallucinations.

    I need to write him a list like you did for your mom.

    Thank you for the inspiration.


Please leave your comments or questions to help guide content here.