Noreen

I met Noreen in January of 2002. I had just begun my role as an activity assistant in a skilled nursing home in Wisconsin.

A mere four months earlier I was in my New York apartment on the morning of September 11th, 2001. The world changed forever that day.  My professional career path changed forever that day as well.

By then, I’d been in New York just over five years and had been working as a radio sports reporter and producer. My lifestyle was fast and filled with amazing moments of pro-athlete interviews, fine dining and New-York City stories.

However, by January 2002 my days were filled with calling Bingo, pushing wheelchairs and learning about Alzheimer’s disease.

I was walking down the long hallway that led to the small office area I shared with the other activity assistant. Noreen stood in the doorway of her room. Her smile was large, her posture slightly hunched, her winter white cardigan sweater hung loosely on her small frame. “Good morning dear,” she chirped.

“Hey there Noreen” I replied. “How’d you sleep?”

“Oh, just fine honey.”

It didn’t take me long to learn that Noreen was ‘everyone’s favorite’. And, it was easy to see why. She knew a little information about everyone at the nursing home. Both staff and residents alike, made it into Noreen’s mental rolodex. She was quick witted and sassy. A tough lady, with rugged skin and a head of thick white hair, always impeccably in place.

She shared a room with another woman. Their worldly possessions separated by a thin white curtain. Noreen’s mementos told her nursing home life story. She had a bowl filled with candy she’d won playing bingo on the dresser and a handmade cross from art-class on the nightstand next to some costume jewelry. She had a blanket on her single bed that looked 100 years old. Photo albums with cracked pages and a few stuffed animals, littered the small space.

Noreen was a social butterfly and a fixture in many activities I led. She was good at trivia and loved current events. By the time I met her, she’d been living in the nursing home for several years.  

Although I was new to the industry, I quickly bonded with Noreen.  My reporting skills came in handy as I asked her questions about her life and she shared vivid details. I was fascinated by her stories.

Often, I would visit Noreen’s room and chat with her like giddy girlfriends. She offered me candy from her bingo-bowl and I’d brush her hair as she would tell me tales from the travels she took with her husband.

In those early days, I wasn’t always welcomed by other professionals in the healthcare industry. I was shunned and dismissed by those who weren’t impressed with my radio industry credentials. I didn’t have any advanced degrees in geriatrics or fancy initials behind my name. And, therefore many times industry insiders showed little respect for my contributions.

Amazingly, none of that seemed to matter to Noreen. She had no remaining family and I enjoyed spending time with her. Luckily for me, Noreen and the other residents I served weren’t concerned with the credentials behind my name. Instead, we bonded over stories, sharing life experiences and friendship.

I asked Noreen questions about her life and she willingly shared the details as we both travelled back in time together. Noreen was more than a woman in a nursing home to me, she became a trusted confidant. In fact, my friendship with Noreen was the first of many many more to come over the next decade of my professional journey.

Each month at the nursing home, I hosted a ‘breakfast bunch’ in the activity room for a group of residents. On this day, Noreen was on the guest list however, the bacon and eggs were being served to the others and she still hadn’t arrived. It wasn’t like Noreen to miss one of my activities and just as I prepared to go check on her, she appeared in the doorway of the activity room.

Her smile was broad and slightly forced that day. She wore a navy blue cardigan sweater. She apologized for being late. I touched her shoulder, “Are you alright Noreen?”

“Well, I’m not feeling that great today honey, but I knew I had to be here this morning for you,” she smiled as her blue eyes sparkled.

My heart swelled as I pulled out a chair for Noreen to sit and join the others. She was a special friend, regardless of the multiple decades of difference in our age. I watched Noreen that morning and later would remember that she appeared to be a bit ‘off-her-game.’ Her sassy wit was a bit slow that day and her movements appeared labored.

Just over a week later, Noreen was called to eternal life. The ‘breakfast bunch’ was the last activity she participated in. Back in 2002, Noreen was the first friend I lost. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been the last.

I have spent the last years wisely, getting more credentials and advanced education in Alzheimer’s, dementia and activity programming. However, the most important lesson I’ve learned didn’t come in the classroom. The first and most valuable lesson I learned came directly from Noreen so many years ago.

Friendship, communication and understanding are amazingly healing in a non-medicinal way. Noreen accepted me. And I accepted her. We had a mutual respect for one another that transcended age and living arrangement.

Unwittingly, Noreen taught me many things that have helped to shape my professional career. Those lessons are truly an Advanced Degree.

This week there’s been noticeable decline in the woman I care for; sleeping through majority of each day, lethargic/sluggish movement, increased myoclonus (muscle spasms) which make me question the possibility of mini seizures, and a decrease in appetite. I’ve considered the possibilities here; possible UTI or other acute illness, further decline, or maybe a subconscious failure to thrive. On Tuesday, during a period of temporary wakefulness, her eyes looked so empty. I don’t know how else to describe it… Just utter emptiness.
The biological affects of Alzheimer’s Disease baffle me. I wish I could understand what she thinks, sees, and contemplates throughout the day. It’s awful what has happened to her mind and body. There are so many positive emotions I carry for this woman, it overrides the sorrow I may sometimes feel.
I think I’ll look into some books or other sources that can provide me with more information.

Feature: Living With Alzheimer's

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It is often said that Alzheimer’s, for which there are no treatments and no cure, has a more profound impact on the families of patients than on the patients themselves.

Angel Serrano lived in the town of Talavera de la Reina, an hour’s drive from Madrid, with his wife Dioni, youngest son Carlos and daughter Cristina. His family devoted virtually all of their time to caring for Angel in the final few years of his life.

When they noticed his memory failing several years ago, the family immediately recognized the classic early symptom of Alzheimer’s—Angel’s sister had suffered the same illness and died a year and a half before. It would claim Angel’s life on October 15, 2004.

She was just 48 when she died; he was 56—the same age as their father when he succumbed to the disease. These are uncommonly young ages to die from Alzheimer’s, which is usually diagnosed in patients over 65. However, a form of the disease is inherited and can appear in middle-age.

For Dioni, Carlos and Cristina, looking after Angel became increasingly onerous and all-consuming. In the final two years of his life, he needed their full-time care and attention even for the most basic routines of daily life. Angel lost the power to speak, walk, and wash and clothe himself—and finally, a week before he died, the power to eat.

“It was a difficult time for us all,” recalls Cristina. “The worst thing was seeing him deteriorate every day. He had once been such a strong, energetic, outgoing person but the disease robbed us of the man we knew and loved so much. I think about him all the time, the conversations we had, the advice he used to give me, most of all I miss his smile. He is at peace now.” (Time)

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I cannot stop watching this. Glen Campbell sings a devastating song to his wife about living with an dying from Alzheimers. 

Little Diamonds

We were sitting at a table with some friends at lunch and chatting amicably.  Laura reached over softly touched my arm and demurely interrupted the conversation. “Could you help me find something I like?” she quietly asked while blankly looking at the large menu. “Of course,” I replied, held up my hand to our friends and turned my total attention to Laura and the menu.  Pointing out a few things she may like and then suggesting a third item, we quickly came to a decision and she felt more settled and confident.

The point of the little story is that Laura’s day to day life seems to be imploding; her world is getting smaller and I seem to be the tether that keeps her stable and connected.  That’s an awesome responsibility and one that makes me pray I am up to the challenge. 

Laura is now dependent on me for a lot of her normal daily activities. She still picks out her own clothes and applies her own makeup (thank goodness because I might have her looking like a circus clown) but meds, food, etc are all doled out by me. To her, operating the remote must be like working the cockpit in a jet fighter; there are just too many buttons and decisions to make. Simple chores are now pretty complex activities that require a lot of thought, time and effort, even if they can’t be completed. Laura looks to me to help her make decisions and will generally go along with whatever I say.

Finding a purse, a pair of glasses, or whatever, takes on new meaning. I am not only finding the missing object, but I am providing some calm to the chaos that is raging in her mind.  I can be up to my armpits trying to debone a chicken, but if she can’t find the cat treats, I am the one on call. 

If we go out in public, I have to remain by her side if not holding her hand.  Even if another close friend or family member is at hand, I am the one who must remain close. Maybe it is the fear of losing me, maybe it is the fear of getting lost herself, but the bottom line is that we must be together.

For Laura, I am the port in the storm, the anchor, or home itself. What I represent to her is consistency, safety, calm and hopefully love.  So I don’t take my job lightly; as I said it is an awesome responsibility and I pray that I can live up to her needs and expectations. The difficulty arises when she needs me when I am otherwise occupied or I have to quit doing something for myself to meet her wishes, no matter how trivial they may seem to me. At that particular moment, I may find it unnerving or irritating, but when I look back on these moments, her touch as she reaches out to take my hand, or the gentle taps on my arm to get my attention, or the sound of her voice as she calls out my name for help, are all like little diamonds. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. 

Signal Boost for Walk to End Alzheimer's!!!

Hey, followers and friends!

I don’t want to blab too much because in the iconic words of Ellie Bartowski…Words taste like peaches.

So I’ll keep this brief and to the point:

If you’re a fan of CHUCK, if you’re a fan of Sarah Lancaster, or if you’re simply a fan of fighting the good fight…Look no further.

Help Sarah Lancaster and her team raise money for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Please donate anything you can to Sarah’s campaign by clicking this link: here

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and nearly two-thirds of those are women. It isn’t simply seniors who are diagnosed, either. There’s such a thing as Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s. And Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

And then there are the families and friends of those diagnosed with the disease who become caregivers. Millions upon millions are affected.

If you don’t have money to give, it’s okay! You can help by signal boosting this post. Or grab the link to Sarah’s donation page and send it to all of your CHUCK fans and friends! 

Just spreading the link will go a long way in helping to fight Alzheimer’s!

Or if you just want to know more about Alzheimer’s for your own information or because someone you know is living with the disease, visit the Alzheimer Assocation’s official website. There’s so much information there! (http://www.alz.org/)

Thanks! You’re all wonderful!

P.S. I actually like peaches, so maybe that’s why it ended up being so long after all. :-/

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Mom and I at the walk to fight Alzheimer’s event in old town Manassas VA, we walked for my grandmother(her mother), and my great grandmother(her grandmother) who both lost there lives to Alzheimer’s and dementia

Man, you people floored me today. I not only reached my goal for this weekend’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, I sprinted beyond it. Thank you all so much for your support — both financial and verbal. (For the record, I shall not be limiting my appreciation to a blanket notes on social media.)

Some of you have yet to meet my dad. (I know, right?) And, that’s what has impacted me the most.

I also take great solace in knowing some of you understand what it is like to have a parent live with Alzheimer’s. That is why I am making one more Hail Mary pass on behalf of this tireless organization. It has yet to reach its own set goal and every dollar counts in these days leading up to the event.

I won’t badger you all further with these notes, but for those of you who are still interested in making a donation, personal goal met or not, please know that it counts in the bigger picture. Click on this link for further details:
http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2014/CA-CaliforniaSouthland?px=10101127&pg=personal&fr_id=4945

Again, my heartfelt appreciation for making a difference to so many sons, fathers, daughters, mothers — all of the families — who turn to the Alzheimer’s Association for help.

#walk2endalz #endalz #fearless #selfless

Alzheimer's Journal - Come Back Early Today

Ed, my beloved Romanian life partner, had Alzheimer’s for the last seven years of our 30-year relationship and was living at Cincinnati’s Alois Alzheimer Center. I’d been visiting him only on Sundays because I’d been preoccupied with my work. I just hadn’t had time to visit more often. But one day I decided to go see Ed anyway although it was Saturday.

When I arrived I hurried into the building and found Ed in bed asleep. He was lying on his back with his mouth open. His beige blanket was pulled up under his chin, covering every square inch of him except his head. He looked so frail in his tiny bed.

He was often asleep when I arrived, but I was usually able to wake him up and get him out of bed for a lively visit. So I called out his name. He opened his eyes then looked over at Mary, the housekeeper, who was silently mopping the floor.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he said, referring to me.

Mary smiled and nodded.

“Do you want to get up?” I asked.

“Sleepy!” he called out loudly in a child-like voice.

That was a first. I sat down on the bed and held his hand. We hadn’t held hands since we were romantically involved all those years ago. But I felt like holding his hand that day. He dozed intermittently.

His breathing seemed strange. He took several short breaths - huffing and puffing like someone who’d just run up several flights of stairs - then he stopped breathing completely for several seconds. Each time he stopped breathing, I watched his chest intently, waiting to make sure it started moving again.

This is how it will end someday. He will be dozing like this and breathing like this and stopping to breathe like this and simply not take another breath.

We talked in between his intermittent dozing. Nothing important. We talked about whether he had breakfast that day, he told me how beautiful I was, and he told me how wonderful it was that we were living in Romania and that the facility where he was living was free.

“I have to go home now,” I said after a while. I let go of his hand reluctantly and got up to put on my coat.

“When are you coming back?”

“Tomorrow,” I answered.

But instead of saying, “Marvelous!” as always, he suddenly looked disappointed, as though I’d said I wasn’t coming back for a month.

“Tomorrow?” he asked. “What do you have to do that’s so important you can’t come back until tomorrow?”

“Well, when do you want me to come back?” I asked.

“Today!”

“Okay,” I said, playing along. “I’ll come back today.”

“Early today!” he added firmly.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll come back early today!”

“Marvelous!” he said.

He smiled, obviously convinced by my statement. He kissed my hand, and when I left I turned and blew kisses to him and he blew kisses back to me.

Back down the hallway I went, then through the lobby. As I left the building, I contemplated the fact that Gerald Ford had died just two days earlier at age 93. Reagan, another of Ed’s heroes, had also died at age 93.

Ed was 93.

I had to admit I was a little superstitious.

I didn’t go back to visit Ed again that day, of course. I’d said it just to please him as I’d always done. I’d always known he’d never know the difference.

I woke up at 8:30 the next morning, later than usual. I made coffee and enjoyed that first cup while sitting at my desk. I opened my journal file and started typing. I wrote about how worrisome his breathing was. I noted how odd it was that Ed had insisted I come back “today - early today.”

The jingling of my little Sanyo startled me. Caller ID said it was the Alois Center.

I flipped open the phone.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello, is this Marie Marley?” asked a woman whose voice I didn’t recognize.

“Yes, it is,” I answered.

“This is Joyce, from the Alois Center. I’m afraid I have bad news for you.”

Oh my God. Ed’s fallen out of his wheelchair and seriously injured himself.

“Edward is gone.”

And thus ended a beautiful 30-year relationship.

Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. Her website (http://ift.tt/1k8Niuv) has a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

RGN or RMN


RGN/RMN - Elderly nursing home

Location - Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Hours - Full time or Part Time

Salary - £25,300 - £29,500 per annum (pro rata)

Job specification: An exciting new vacancy has arisen for a qualified nurse RGN, RMN with nursing home experience to join an elderly nursing home located near to Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. The 50 bedded home offers personalised nursing care for older people, including individuals who are living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

This home can be extremely flexible with regards to the hours they are able to offer, and provide nurses with an extremely competitive rate of pay and benefits package. This really is a great company and home to be working with. They are extremely supportive towards employees and want their nurses to be the best that they can be.

Working as part of one of the leading UK Healthcare providers in the UK, this company is able to provide high levels of support for its employees, particularly in terms of job satisfaction and career development opportunities. The company has a "Managers of the Future" scheme and seeks to only employ the highest calibre nurses and managers.

Person specification: The successful candidate for this position will have strong communication skills, an excellent clinical ability and have a passion to work within an elderly nursing home environment. They will be motivated towards providing high levels of care and a homely and stimulating environment for residents. The ideal candidate will act as a role model, encouraging good clinical and care governance practice and will be excited about working for a reputable healthcare organisation.

Benefits:

  • Competitive pay
  • Excellent induction plan
  • Free uniform
  • Paid DBS
  • Stakeholder pension and life assurance scheme available
  • Equivalent to 25 days annual leave
  • Bank holiday enhancement
  • Access to perks benefits
  • Child care vouchers
  • Extensive training and career development opportunities

Applicants must hold a valid NMC pin and be eligible to work in the UK without the need for sponsorship. Newly qualified nurses may be considered for this position.

For more information or to apply please contact Amy Lee at Appoint Group on 01489 774 209 or email your CV to amy.lee@appointgroup.co.uk





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