Saturdays with Grandma

This past month, we said an emotional goodbye to our dear friend, Sylvia. Sylvia and her family have been with us from the very start of Our Family Home. During her time in our home, Sylvia helped us realize the importance of our mission to deliver compassionate care to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia; and, more importantly, that Our Family Home is home.

We talked with Sylvia’s daughter, Cindy, about her experience:

“It was her home. We tried three other larger, institutional facilities before coming to Our Family Home. The experience was very different with OFH. We could tell early on that this home was now my mom’s home.”

In fact, each Saturday, three generations would come together for visits with grandma. “Just like at home, the adults would sit on the patio outside and talk while the kids played ball in the backyard,” added Cindy.

“The staff was so welcoming. They always had my mom dressed and ready for us. My mom had six daughters. At times, I think my mom actually thought some of the staff were her children.”

The family also enjoyed spending holidays together. “We celebrated every holiday with my mom at Our Family Home. We had an Easter egg hunt at the house, grilled hamburgers outside over the Fourth of July and even brought the kids in their Halloween costumers with treats for the residents. At Christmas time, we had gifts for all of the staff as well. They were our family too.”

“When my niece got married my mom was unfortunately unable to attend the service. So my niece and her new husband put their wedding attire back on the next day and came to the house for pictures and to spend time with my mom.”

Caring about the people we have in our homes is as much about their physical and mental health as it is about their livelihood. “We can’t express how much we appreciate Our Family Home for taking loving care of our mother and grandmother. You were there every day for seven years. You were there for every meal. You were there every morning and every night. You tucked her into bed, combed her hair, bathed her, held her hand, dressed her, fed her, and most of all you made sure that she knew she mattered.”

“You made her feel like a person not a burden. You made her feel wanted and comfortable in her own home. This was her home and you were her family in all the ways that matter.”

Recognizing the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s – Part 1

In a recent partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, Karen Wilder, widow of actor Gene Wilder, shared her experience caring for Gene after his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. In the interview, she describes her journey to love and care for her husband in his final years.

In her words, “The first signs of trouble were small.” This is often the case with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: A missed word, a forgotten payment, an uncharacteristically harsh word. While these actions can be a part of the general aging process, they can also be the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

We have also found that some symptoms can be easily overlooked. In our society, we associate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s with forgetfulness – lost keys, missed appointments, names we can’t remember. However, some of the more easily overlooked symptoms can include:

  1. Change in behavior: Degenerative diseases can affect a person’s judgement and inhibitions. If you notice an uncharacteristic lack in inhibition, such as walking up to a stranger and giving them a hug or kiss, this could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
  2. Change in language: As the disease attacks the brain, you may notice changes in language such as slow or halting speech, decreased vocabulary, or a misuse of words.
  3. Changes in reading or writing: If you notice a loved one who once loved to read no longer finds joy in it or if writing becomes more challenging, these could also be signs of changes in the brain.
  4. Changes in vision: Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships can also be a sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Early detection can provide many benefits both in terms of treatment and care; and while research is advancing to aid in early detection, the love and involvement of family is still the best resource we have.

For more information on early detection, the Alzheimer’s Association has assembled a helpful list of common symptoms of Alzheimer’s along with common characteristics of aging to help family members decipher between the two. Additionally, we suggest talking openly with your loved ones about aging and changes in behavior as well as accompanying them to doctor visits.