There is no getting around it, Alzheimer's and Dementia will undoubtedly affect all of our lives in one way or another. If we do not get it in our old age, chances are someone in our family or in our circle of friends will receive this devastating diagnosis. The way that we care for the most vulnerable people, will show the true nature of people. We need more empathy in this day and age as it seems to be slipping away. If you were diagnosed with Alzheimer's, one of the first things you would say is "I am not going to end up in a locked unit of a long term care facility, I would rather die." I have never met a soul who actually wanted to live in a long term care facility. These facilities are managed by the government, that is the first problem. When your housing needs and your care needs are provided by the same resource (the government) the chances for abuse and neglect increase. They start skimping on the quality of food or toilet paper, have less outings or hire staff that are not qualified all in the hope for making or saving more money. For profit is a dirty word these days but it shouldn't be. The more I profit, the more I can hire people with disabilities, which is the mandate of Sacred Acres.
Maria Montessori was the first female physician in Italy in the early 1900's. Her male counterparts, were not amused that a woman was in their midst and so they did what many men try to do with a strong woman, they tried to break her. They gave her the most difficult internship, the home for wayward children a place where orphans, thieves, disabled and sick children were all kept. Maria excelled and developed her method of teaching children we know as Montesorri. This same philosophy was adapted by Dr. Jeremy Camp for the family and friends and most importantly, the person, living with Dementia.
The first thing Maria realized was that children needed to have a high sense of self worth and esteem and she did this by assigning them a role or job. It wasn't just any job, but a job that they enjoyed and were good at, that gave them a sense of pride and accomplishment. Maria was the person who invented child sized furniture and the wooden puzzles with little knobs on each piece. She termed them "error proof puzzles" as every child could be successful in completing one of her puzzles. She used templates to help children match the pieces of the puzzle. She put into the environment the things that were missing and in the case of Alzheimer's and Dementia, it is the Declarative Memory that is lost. Procedural Memory (like riding a bike or brushing your teeth) is spared in Alzheimer's and Dementia, it is declarative memory that is lost. The names, dates, facts and figures that seem to elude the person with dementia. It starts of slowly and then snowballs as the person becomes more confused, they turn inward and stop doing things. Their behaviour changes and they often become violent simply because they are scared. So what do we do if people become violent and are living in a government run home? We put them on psychiatric medication to "calm them down" which really only turns them into addicts that sleep all day and night. That doesn't sound much like the golden years to me. In an attempt to keep the patients up during the day, many are tied into their wheelchairs and just left there for hours, with no stimulation at all. Sounds like hell to me but that is how countless people experience their final years in this great country. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Our first problem is we do not give our seniors anywhere near the respect and care that we should and in particular, our veterans are treated horribly and many end up homeless. There should not be anyone sleeping outside in Canada. We are so wealthy, there should not be a homeless epidemic, but there is.
This method or philosophy of care gives the person back their dignity by improving their quality of life. All of the family and care providers are trained and although it is a lot of work to set it up and train everyone, once that phase is completed, the rest is simple. It is remarkable how well people can live successfully with this disease if it is treated properly with art, music, dance, drama, writing, socializing, jobs and roles, animals and hobbies like gardening or working on a hot rod. There is a nursing home in the United States that is giving their dementia residents cannabis oil instead of the traditional psychiatric medications that have lots of horrible side effects. It is working beautifully too!
Doll therapy is amazing with this population as the use of a weighted doll transports the client back to another time, when they were perhaps a parent for the first time and they take great care of it until their dying day. It is really remarkable to watch the transformation that takes place when someone is treated with dignity and respect. The smell of baking bread will elicit memories from their youth which helps to exercise their brain. There is always something to do and someone to do it with. People are engaged in life, not tied up in a wheelchair and shoved in a corner somewhere. We are meant to live our lives until our last breathe. Shouldn't it be done with dignity and respect? I believe that every long term care facility and Alzheimer's Society should be supporting and teaching this method as we will all, sooner or later, be faced with this horrible disease.
When my beloved Aunt Ida was locked up in an "emergency nursing home" along with her spouse who had vascular dementia while she suffered with Alzheimer's Disease, I was powerless to help her. They had made their eldest son their Power of Attorney and he wouldn't budge when I begged him to allow me to bring them to a beautiful home in the 1000 Islands where I would see them everyday. It was too far away for him. It always was about him anyway. He got more than a quarter of a million dollars, they all did, the three kids, who locked their parents up when they got dementia. I know this happens all the time but for it to happen to these two is beyond belief.
You see my Auntie Ida was the most caring woman, she would NEVER have let this happen to anyone that she loved. It was quite obvious by the way that she lived her life, caring for her own mother until she died and also me and my 2 older sisters after the death of our mother, it was Auntie Ida who took us in. She became our surrogate mother. I adored her. When she died the day after my 47th birthday, I didn't think I would survive, but I have.
I went to McMaster University and got trained in Montesorri Methods for Alzheimer's and Dementia. It took 2 years but I did it. I did it for her, even though she was long gone by the time I finished, I did it for the future generations who are faced with this very serious problem of caring for our most vulnerable citizens. They of all people, deserve to be treated like queens and kings yet many of them die as paupers despite having resources, their children become greedy and don't want to spend $5000.00 per month on care for their parents. If you have a family member or friend with Alzheimer's or Dementia, I will come to their home and create a plan for them which I will share with their family and care givers. I can set it up in a week and provide follow-up for after care and consultations. You won't be sorry, it will be the best money you ever spent and it is tax deductible as a medical expense because I am a Social Worker.
Rest in peace my beloved Auntie Ida. I hope that you are proud of the work that I am doing in your name! One love.