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Dignity and Alzheimer's: A Community Experience

It's 12:14 pm on Sunday, my mother-in-law sits with a college student talking about everything in her way. We are at church after the service. There are people all around, most are leaving soon. I just leave her be. She is safe. I don't feel the need to jump in and rescue the conversation. I don't want to wink at people so they understand.

I want my loved one to enjoy her social time in a safe environment. I want her to feel like others want to talk with her. I want her dignity.

Finding security at church

Church is the one place where people will engage her and love on her without reservation or judgement. It is the place where I feel secure in knowing that she will be respected, heard, and cared for.

In my estimation, it is the place where she feels the most dignity, where she matters the most. It is a safe haven. But, why is this so?

At church there is an understanding that everyone comes as they are. People from all ethnicities, ages, professions, and stages of life show up. She's not the only with Alzheimer's disease. She is not the only one with challenges. It is assumed that we all come in with our stuff and her stuff is mainly with her communication. Finding this kind of community has been good for her.

Finding your community

Maybe you are not a church goer. Maybe that is not your thing. Here is my question, can you find a social setting where your loved one:

  • Is accepted and valued as they are?
  • Is in a safe physical space and environment?
  • Doesn't require you to helicopter in and manage every conversation?
  • Can regularly attend and see familiar faces?
  • Offers snacks, food, drinks, or activities to make things comfortable and fun?
  • Has convenient, accessible restrooms?
  • Comfortable seating

This could be a community center or senior living facility. This could be a library group or some other civic association-sponsored activity. Maybe this is a sporting event or at the park. Maybe it is indeed a church or faith-based activity. Maybe it's a group of neighbors, friends, or family.

I am sure that our community could add a few more.

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Finding that safe space for a loved one and you

Here is another thing: it will not only help your loved one. It will help you as a caregiver.

Not only can you get a little respite by simply attending and not feeling the need to always sit with your loved one, you may also be refreshed by the experience yourself. It can be a lonely place and this can be a place to engage others who care as well.

Others can see what you are dealing with and may offer to help in some way. The best way to share your need is for others to directly experience it themselves. They will soon know what you are dealing with, and there will always be a certain percentage of helpers who will want to lend a hand. As Mr. Rogers used to say, "Find the helpers." They are out there. I just think it's easier to find them if you are out there, too.

For me, dignity is about the human experience. Finding ways to allow my loved one to have those experiences enriches her and everyone she touches.

What have you done to help instill a practice of dignity and independence into your loved one living through Alzheimer's? Share in the forums.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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