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Working with cognitive impaired residents – what a trip it is

January 22, 2013

Today is my day to work with the Alzheimer’s / Dementia residents at Heath Village in Hackettstown, NJ. After listening to a talk by a member of the Alzheimer’s Association a couple weeks back I can approach today’s class with a better understanding.

I had never known there were so many different types of dementia. I don’t remember the number but it was a very mind boggling number. Variation upon variation, with some known causes and many unknown.

Any yet, they are all different from Alzheimer’s itself.

As a teacher it is great to walk into a room and be greeted by students waiting with excitement to get started and pick up where we left off. With a group like I will face today, it is a new day, and for them, almost like the first time. A couple remember me, one or two remember a few of the exercises while the rest are a blank canvas.

There are a few who fall right in, while many need to pull back into here and now. I need to work slowly and somewhat methodically, making patterned movements and hoping I can help them reconnect a few broken mind – body connection for even a few minutes.

As much as a challenge as it is for them, to be honest, it a challenge for me. Being human of course I want them to laugh, enjoy and give those “great class today Stan” accolades. Yet I know this is different, much more basic and in the end a whole lot more rewarding when even one person (yes, there are people behind those blank gazes) makes a connection.

For those of you who are caregivers, I have had a few folk taking care of parent with severe cognitive issues who have told me that exercises I have shown them to use with mom or dad have helped to calm them when agitated and helped them work at a mild exercise program.

How far would you go in your attempts to connect with something that seems so remote a possibility that is appears unreachable?

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