As I looked through the eyes of this “rookie” Memory Matters volunteer I soon came to comprehend and accept that when communicating with aging folk suffering from dementia, one of the most important starting points was to “live in their world.” It was a valuable life lesson I eventually had to apply as a caregiver to my own Mum a couple of years ago. As our children come into the world, we raise them – in our world – as they follow role model advice, learn and develop their own brain knowledge and skills. Sadly, as people age some develop dementia and there comes a time when their world is our world.
Understanding dementia, providing brain-health education and giving hope to those recently diagnosed is now a lifelong pursuit, and in this respect, I am still a “rookie” volunteer.
My wife Barbara and I recently signed up for the Dementia Dialogues class being expertly led by our own staff professional, Maureen. I was particularly happy to see that my volunteer friends Mike Rambo, Art Cornell and John Ratliff were also signed up and like us were enjoying the learning experience. The five-week (2 hours per week) class is licensed from the University of South Carolina and is given FREE. Our staff member salary costs being paid for by generous community donations. The class is for:
- Family Caregivers
- Social Workers
- Certified Nursing Assistants
- Personal Care Assistants
- Public Health Professionals
- Medical Professionals
- Facility Activity Directors
It’s also excellent for Memory Matters volunteers!
This week the subject matter was about “Behavior.” What can happen, why, when and how do we understand and deal with it. Maureen started yesterday’s program with a short video of an autistic child displaying serious problematic behavior. You can watch the 10-minute ABC News segment here.
However, please do read John Ratliff’s reflective commentary that follows:
Because I am Carly
All the experts diagnosed her as developmentally challenged. Mildly retarded. “She is exhibiting classic autistic symptoms and belongs in a group home.”
But her father refused to give up on her because when he looked into her eyes in those brief moments when the wiring in her brain was not driving her to distraction, he could see intelligence. One day, completely by accident, Carly typed ‘hur’ on the laptop the therapist was using to document her progress. After patient insistence from her therapist, Carly completed the word with a ‘t’. She then followed it up by typing ‘help.’
It took years of one-on-one, focused attention and a regime of tough love which forced Carly to type out what she wanted before they gave it to her, but eventually she became fluent on the keyboard. Like Stephen Hawking, from the outside Carly appeared to be a hopeless case. The keyboard opened her keen intellect up to the world and became her gateway, revealing a complex, perceptive person with a sharp sense of humor and passionate desire to be treated like everyone else.
“I just want to go to school with all the other kids and be normal. But I understand I scare people when I act out. I just wish they could be inside my body for a little while. Then they would understand that I can’t help it…… because I am Carly.”
Call Memory Matters at 843 842 6688 or send us a note via the website to inquire about our Dementia Dialogues class and many other Brain Health Education and Memory Care Services offerings. We can help! Our day programs provide caregivers with respite while allowing those affected by memory loss to feel a sense of normalization, motivation, and purpose.
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