Sharing is Caring. Helping a Neighbor in Need.

A neighboring couple has a spouse who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. As I see them take walks, work in the yard, take drives through the neighborhood, and stop by to say hello, I instantly remember the days I spent with my father, who suffered from the same debilitating disease.

An immeasurable and loving dedication

The unfortunate frustration I sense that he is feeling and expressing to me, along with the pain of the never-ending need for his wife's constant supervision, has me engulfed in his heartache. His loving dedication is immeasurable. To get up each day and willingly do it over again because this, as he says, is "my love and my commitment."

He knows that my father passed away from the disease. When we have a few minutes to chat, he seeks suggestions and asks me to share my experience as one of my father's caretakers. The stages of my father's disease had his activity levels and participation with certain things at different paces until he became relatively sedentary.

I slipped him a letter when I stopped by to offer him and his wife a box of muffins. I explained to him that it was the suggestions from family and friends, along with the books and websites I devoured to understand more about the disease and where I learned things I could try and do to support my father and myself. My experiences as an early childhood educator and the abundance of ideas I learned when teaching could keep his attention span and current interests alive.

In my letter, I wrote...

Dear Friend,

A few things my father liked best was listening to songs on a CD player. I purchased one that was simple to turn on and off, with no fancy buttons. His CD collection was small and included a few of his favorite artists. When it was time to play Johnny Cash, we danced and sang along for as long as possible.

Photos and yearbooks were a big hit, and he enjoyed reminiscing and sharing stories about who, what, where, and when in each photograph. From my notes, I created nametags from sticky labels that included dates and locations. My father appreciated being able to add these easy peel-and-stick labels to his collection of photos.

Stepping into the kitchen to prepare quick and easy recipes was also a hit. Time in the kitchen means safety first, especially around the stove and with sharp utensils. Dad was happy to work with simple ingredients and had fun mixing flour, sugar, and berries to make the most delicious blueberry cobbler. Dish duty was a hit because he could play with soapy water and make bubbles.

Car rides were his favorite. My father loved the outdoors, and we would venture to local parks, where sidewalks provided a smoother walking surface, and we could partake in opportunities to slide and play ball. Empty benches were a big hit because we could sit in peace, birdwatch, and admire the busy squirrels.

We would make time for a visit to the ice cream shop. As we devoured samples, my father could choose what his taste buds were craving. Inside my travel with Dad bag, I carried a set of books with amazing facts that included colorful photographs. Sitting close to the restroom in case of an urgent need to visit, we'd cherish our sweet treat while learning exciting facts.

If I can help in any way, I'm here.

Warm regards,

Sharing is caring

I felt a sense of peace as I walked away from delivering the muffins and sharing my experiences with my dutiful and admirable neighbor. Thinking that my ideas could bring moments of solace and ease through a difficult time brings me comfort.

As time passes and the support for a loved one with Alzheimer's increases, family members and caregivers will learn that a wide range of emotions will consume them and that some days will be hard to endure. Finding support for your loved ones' needs and taking time for yourself can help.

Supporting someone with Alzheimer's is one of the most powerful experiences. The advice I look up to when sharing my insight and experiences is remembering this quote by Helen Keller: Love And Kindness Are Never Wasted. They always make a difference."

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