Holidays can be filled with a wide range of emotions ranging from pure joy to utter sadness when you are visiting someone with a cognitive illness such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Regardless of the emotion, however, accept it and try not to judge your feelings or the feelings of others during this time. Holidays may feel and look different because traditions are not able to be followed exactly as before, but that does not mean you cannot have a meaningful experience.
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I am not a fan of political correctness. We have come far astray of the general knowledge that “sticks and stones….” Moreover, the limitations prompted by overzealous word-watchers can sometimes affect the ability to communicate freely and clearly.
However, I also recognize that while words may not physically injure us, they can hurt and often can rob people of dignity.
For example, I often ask students in a class I teach what is wrong with the phrase “the Alzheimer’s sufferer” or “the wheelchair-bound man.”
Know the answer?
Both phrases define people by a characteristic or condition. It’s far better in these cases to write or say “the man with Alzheimer’s disease” or “the woman who uses a wheelchair.”
Living just down the road from Sweet Arrow Lake County Park in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, has been a blessing in so many ways.
The location has made it convenient for my husband, Barry, and me to take advantage of all the park has to offer. The facilities have served as gathering places for family reunions, a way to fish and kayak with friends, and geocaching—an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use a GPS mobile device or other navigational methods to hide and then seek containers—with our children.
The park also has served as a venue for learning how to plant a garden, worshiping at sunrise on Easter Sunday, and just taking a walk to the waterfalls with my Mom.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that progressively harms and ultimately destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions.
People are at the greatest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease if they are more than 85 years of age; they may have a reduced risk of developing memory loss-related diseases if they maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association.
Because people experience Alzheimer’s disease differently with varying symptoms, it is important that a doctor provide the diagnosis. Symptoms generally include the loss of problem-solving ability, impaired judgment, and loss of short-term memory.
Alzheimer’s disease occurs gradually. In fact, after a diagnosis is made, family members often say they believe they should have “seen it coming.”
As families learn to deal with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, they must become aware of the reality they face—the disease gets progressively worse and families should make plans to handle that decline.
One of some 230 meals on wheels volunteers with Diakon Community Services, Michelle Eshelman enjoys helping people. Sometimes, that help takes a different turn …making her a new “Buddy” in the process…. She writes about the experience:
The first time I delivered meals to “Buddy’s” owner, I could not help but notice Buddy. He barked from the time I pulled in until the time I left. This continued for the next three or four deliveries. Every time I made a delivery, I would talk to him, but he just barked.
Why volunteer? Why not? A meals on wheels volunteer, Barbara Carduff, shares her reasoning:
“I work at Schuylkill Medical Center South and a coworker of mine volunteers for Meals on Wheels and said they were in need of someone in Shenandoah[, Pennsylvania,] for Wednesdays. My daughter, who is a nursing student, was off from classes that day so we thought, why not?
Every few months we hold photo contests for our Diakon staff members. Originally, we launched a contest to obtain content for our 27 Diakon Facebook pages, but the process has evolved into a fun way of bringing staff together with one another and the people they serve.
Our last employee Facebook photo contest was themed as the “fall selfie” edition. We had so many terrific entries from a multitude of Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries programs and Diakon Senior Living campuses that we wanted to share some of them here.
I recently had the opportunity to tour the five senior community centers Diakon operates in Schuylkill County, Pa., under contract with the county Office of Senior Services.
These community centers offer a variety of programs and services geared to people who are 60 and older, though lots of programs are open to those of all ages. In addition to daily programs and services, the centers offer nutritionally balanced lunch-time meals at each location, as well as delivered via the Diakon-sponsored Meals on Wheels program to people in the community who have difficulty leaving their homes.