I have thought of writing about my experiences in the dementia care giving world for some time. I had NO IDEA it would bloom into what it is becoming! A book on the way, a vibrant online caregiver community, and a series of videos for YouTube that allows me to reach people in all corners with my knowledge, experience and love of dementia care giving. I hope I am making a difference for a community who is sometimes misunderstood, maligned and marginalized: both the people with a dementia disease AND the people who care for them.
I began my career in Social Work in 1993 in a place as far away from Geriatrics as you can get: Child Support Social Work! Yes, I was helping people and making a difference, but I wanted to work with the elderly population! During my Practicum for my college degree, I had worked in a skilled nursing facility, better known as a nursing home, and I fell in love. I loved listening to the stories of these people!! After working with several people diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I became absolutely fascinated with the disease. I wanted to know more, to understand better. I saw residents who were often lost in their own world and were often times worse off after an "intervention" with them that we had found them.
I knew there had to be a better way.
My first opportunity to make a difference for these people came when I was offered a job at a skilled nursing facility in 1994. I was beyond thrilled to go to work everyday and interact with these engaging people, with and without a dementia diagnosis. They began to teach me so much. Some were charming and lovely, while others were feisty, outspoken, opinionated...and they were my favorite! I saw them as people who had needs, like all of us; not as a list of diagnosis's that had to be managed. I worked with professional caregivers who also understood that dynamic. Together we learned how to make lives better for the people we served by seeing them as individuals who needed personalized care. All of the tips, tricks and techniques I have learned were learned on the front lines of care giving. Down in the "trenches", so to speak, getting in there and failing and succeeding and caring and trying. Never giving up even in the most difficult of circumstances. Advocating and championing for these people taught me deeper compassion. Deeper connection. Deeper CARE GIVING.
I am still learning on a daily basis how to be a better care giver. And what I learn, I want to share with whomever will listen. I believe in the basics: love and joy and making a positive difference in the lives of everyone you come across. In the words of Rumi; "We are all just walking each other home".
Wishing you love and joy,