With fifteen presentations now completed, I am off to Tucson for A Book Fair at Bookman’s New Author event, a preview of the June BookExpoAmerica in New York. It is very gratifying to receive emails and phone calls from senior women caring for their spouses who have been diagnosed with “some sort of dementia” who, after reading my book, feel heard, understood and not so alone. But I also hear from daughters, caring for one or both parents, usually after one parent has had a fall or a stroke and a “cover up” is detected. Memory loss experienced as shameful.
It was my privilege this week to be a substitute group facilitator for a retirement community Alzheimer support group. As usual I learned more than the information I provided. I began to understand the value of community to these folk who often do not have family living near them. In our mobile society and in our children’s frequent moves to find schooling and jobs for themselves, the parents, who move to avoid the winters or who no longer have lives on their farms which have been sold or jobs that no longer exist, relocate to the warm climate and find solidarity among their new neighbors.
I learned of communities that protect the demented spouse on outings, drive to medical appointments, and even come with food or with offers to bathe a neighbor. Hillary Clinton was and is right, but it takes a village not only to raise children, but to support each other where there is a disability. I learned that happy hour bus trips to local restaurants provide a method of dealing with sundowner’s syndrome, where the person with dementia gets more confused and agitated at the end of the day. These trips on the bus offer him company, light conversation and distraction from worries. The caregiving spouse also has others to speak with and an outing to enjoy where she is not completely alone with her spouse.
Here in my community I hardly know my neighbors; we merely wave at each other in passing. Do you know yours?