Monday, October 25, 2010

A visit to an Alzheimer's facility

We went to an Alzheimer's facility about a week and a half ago. This facility was awesome! It was just so cute. It was built so that everything is in a circle so that the residents will never get lost. They had a library, a bistro/cafe, an outdoor sitting area, a salon, a recreation room, a complete kitchen (with all stove/burners turned off), and 'neighborhoods'. The neighborhoods had their 'homes,' which were really cute little dorm rooms. The neighborhoods were marked with distinct names, pictures and colors so that the residents will recognize in which area they are in. The outdoor area was completely fenced in with 8-foot fences, but the area was so large that you didn't feel like you were fenced in. The outdoor area was in a circle as well so that the residents would not get lost.

The residents are free to move about the facility as they pleased, including going outside whenever they want. The purpose is to give them the freedom to roam so that they feel like they are not in a 'hotel' or some other foreign place; the facility wants them to feel like they are home. To help them remember their 'home' each resident had their picture outside the door and some had pictures of family and pictures of themselves when they were younger.

I had a conversation with a woman at the Bistro. She was drinking a hot chocolate and the convo went something like this:

Me: Hi, my name is Kim. What's your name?
Her: I'd like something to go with my coffee.
Me: Ok, I'll get you something to go with your coffee in just a moment. Do you have any children.
Her: I'd like something to go with my coffee.
Me: Ok, yes I can see that you need something with your coffee. Can you tell me the names of your children?
Her: Yes, I have three children. I'd like something to go with my coffee.
Me: Three children, that's awesome! Are you married
Her: Yes, I was married. He was very good to me.
Me: That's great. How long were you married?
Her: He was very good to me. I'd like something to go with my coffee.

And you get my drift. The conversation went on and on like this.

As the marketing coordinator was talking about the horrors of Alzheimer's disease I became overwhelmed and had to fight tears. I started thinking of my grandmother and all the pain she must have gone through. I had no idea Alzheimer's was so...debilitating. I knew it was bad, but not as bad as what the marketing coordinator explained. It made me angry and sad and remorseful. I went through a bunch of 'I should've done this and that and the other thing.'

My classmates could see that I was fighting back tears. It took everything in me to keep from getting up and running to the bathroom sobbing.

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