Little did I know that wonderful time spent with my kind and loving grandfather would become early training for the work that I do today at the Alzheimer’s Association. My choice to spend my nursing career serving older adults was also influenced by him. Grandpa was a master at meeting and accepting others right where they were at in their lives. Through his positive interactions I caught that no one needed to be perfect to be loved and cared for.
However, specifically focusing my work with individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases was never planned. I still recall the day when I was asked by my director of nurses to work on the Memory Care Unit at the facility where I was employed. With hesitation I agreed thinking it would only be a temporary period of time. When I walked onto the unit I was both surprised and saddened to observe staff who I believe wanted to do a good job, but appeared to lack disease understanding and training. There was also a lot of chaos due in large part to ineffective and limited programming available for the residents. I remember thinking there has to be a better way. These individuals deserved more; to feel loved, understood and respected. From that day forward I decided that this vulnerable population and their families was who I wanted to serve.
I have been blessed in multiple ways through the work that I do and the people that I get to connect with through the Alzheimer’s Association. Our Chapter has an amazing team of compassionate staff who continue to teach me. I am also humbled by the courage that caregivers exhibit on this difficult journey and the individuals with disease who work very hard every day in a world that becomes less familiar to them.
Today, I am a grandmother and remain confident that the children will one day live in a world where we have conquered Alzheimer’s disease. In the interim, I will remain hopeful that they too will grow up understanding the value of relationships and that no one needs to be perfect to be loved and cared for.