The Alzheimer's friend I am able to work with was one of the life changers for me. All had been life-changing, but it was up to me to be ready to receive it with open hearts. I was working out with him, I was would have him run through exercises for keeping a stable and mobile body.
It was the first person I've worked with where each time I met him, I would have to re-introduce myself. Everytime I would show up and say we're going to exercise. He would respond with a dismissive laugh and say things like, "I exercise everyday, I've already been on my walk." "I am strong and in good shape, I don't need any help with that." or he would just simply stay in his recliner and cross his arms saying he's already been on a walk and now it's nap time. Which I learned quick was a big no that I wouldn't be able to cross with any chipper pep talking.
In fact, he was in superb shape compared to most of the other's in his age group and that facility specifically. Many were just unable to hold a conversation, maybe trying to escape or find the car they thought they had parked for the 4th time that day. But our man, Donald, was positive and outgoing to all that crossed his path. Oh Donald is his name, my client that has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's,
I started paying attention to Donald pretty quick. As at first it broke my heart to think of not being able to remember yesterday, as he could not. Or to really remember why he's in the facility he's in. With the gates which he will often times point out for obscuring the perfect view.
Very quickly I only had admiration for Donald and his perspectives on life. He wakes up each day, goes about his day. Eating the meals he is given. While chatting with those that around him. He is always striving to go for those walks of his. And even though it's a smaller area, he has made the best of it and takes in the things he does enjoy about it.
He never gets fixated on any of the bad parts of his day. He never allows the thoughts of what he's missing, or where he could be to last longer than the time it's on his lips and out his vocal chords - to the next step in his walk. He will say things like "I just wish I lived somewhere nice and cool. That way I could walk more. It's too hot here." Then he will quickly follow it up with something he sees. "Oh look, that guys raking all those leaves over there." "Look at those mountains there." - whatever it may be, I begin to notice an immediate follow up of positive or neutral, to that which bothers him.
Donald loves Golf. Donald had spent much of his life golfing around the country and world. Golfing, walking on that lush green grass and soil. I think there's something to Golfing and the walking on the ground as much as they do. Not preventing pains or stiffness, but allowing for a connection down to their stance while looking down getting ready to swing. And the walking of the course in general. For Donald is connected to his body. But he is no longer remembering all the things of his life and day.
Donald just knows he's seeing through those eyes, and in that moment he is doing whatever it is he is doing. He just enjoys interaction and engaging with the other people he passes.
I asked Donald once, what advice would you give about Life. For which he responded, "Oh, I don't know..." And I could tell it was confusing to him. So I re-phrased my question. I asked him what makes you happiest Donald?
He responded, "Walking." I thought to myself how simple and beautiful. Something many people don't give appreciation to until it's gone.
Then he said something which really helped me that day, and many days to come it will hold an impact on me. He continued, "But with someone. Walking with a friend. Because walking by yourself is just lonely, ya know? If you have someone with you, you can talk about things like what your seeing."
Holy Shit. Donald just cracked the code for me right there. My new favorite thing is Walking and Talking. I mean we've all been doing it. But not with awareness or attention. Not with an engagement to the simplicity of what it is.
Pointing out what your seeing... like hey, those flowers that we pass everywhere our whole lives - look at those beauties. Yeah sure, nothing new to me. But still, that's a pretty nice thing to look at. Beats looking at walls or concrete!
If you meet someone who has been diagnosed with some sort of dis-ease, which render symptoms like memory loss - I urge the removal of all judgements, ideas, beliefs, and simply sit and listen to what they're saying to you. Allow it to sink it and feel the meaning to your life. When it's a family member, we find ourselves to clogged up with guilt and sadness for the conditions we see. But maybe it's harder and more of a lesson for us outside looking in. They are giving everyone gifts to be grateful for. They are telling us what not to miss in life. What not to take for granted in life. What to really enjoy and appreciate.
If it's your family member who is "suffering" from these symptoms and you're in the shoes of sadness, guilt, or shame about where they are. About what you're doing for them, or to them. Then you are unable to hear the message. It is important to find someone who is not a loved one of yours with the same symptoms. Then listen.
It will come through however it's needed to be heard. But our lack of communication abilities and blocks of emotions not expressed or communicated - leaves for DEAFNESS in the heart. Listennnnn....Just listen.
Seeding a Reality: Talks of Life and Meaning
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