Today, I went to this incredibly spirited, educational, and inspirational talk lead by Teepa Snow today. Many of you are probably like: who? If this is so, you can check her out here. She is an occupational therapist with an incredible understanding of people inflicted with dementia. And incase you are not aware, I work as a life enrichment coordinator in a memory care community. It was so wonderful to hear her speak because she really understands what is going on with those with dementia. Hearing her talk made me really contemplate why I love my job.
During the presentation, Teepa mentioned "dementia is not just memory loss-it is brain failure," and I think that this is an important thing to understand. Individuals are being stripped of the moments that form their identity, and they are also losing their skills that keep them independent. Daily, I am so lucky to be able to be there to create some happiness in their whirlwind of decline.
Yes, there are days where I feel like I am going to pull my hair out. However, when I put it into perspective, they must be having a much more difficult time! Their sense of familiarity and comfort is being stripped, and they are losing the language and muscle ability to control activities of daily living. Working with these people, I get just a moment of creating happiness and joy in their life. Additionally, they teach me so much about patience and educating. These individuals have gone through decades more of time than I have, and they have beautiful stories and advice to share. Constantly, I feel like they are giving me these sweet nuggets of information that they have learned throughout the years. They teach me things that took them their whole life to learn.
While having dementia, you lose filters and inhibitions that you had in the past, and this can create problems (saying harmful things they wouldn't have said before, etc.). However, I feel like it creates these genuine moments with residents where they are willing to try things that they would've thought childish or immature in the past. They are so appreciative for the little things and beautiful moments, and you really impact their entire day by giving them just a moment of happiness.
There is a quote from Maya Angelou that I constantly come to when thinking about my approach in working with my residents.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
This quote is so incredibly true in the world of a resident with dementia. They will not remember the moments that you had, but they will have the feelings you give them. Therefore, it is important to gift them happiness. They deserve it during this dark and lonesome period.