She came to visit the Jura Care Village, a woman who has suffered deeply under the lurking hands of Alzheimer’s. But she is not mumbling incoherent words, nor pacing up and down. She doesn’t struggle to understand the who, what, where and when.
A couple of years ago, this strong woman stopped her car in front of Jura Care’s entrance. Though in physical pain and emotional pain, her smile was wide as she introduced me to her husband, oom Gerrit!
Oom Gerrit seemed a gentleman with a sense of humor, and soon had us all giggling. He came to visit. He loved aunty Joy sitting in the sun on the stoep. He grabbed her hand and they started dancing along with the music that seemed to enliven them both. And after they had a few more chats and a cup of warm tea, they said their goodbyes in their own way and off he went with her to their home.
Another Sunday came and they visited us again. This time we had a new resident present and oom Gerrit introduced himself in his own way; shaking hands and making a certain remark that couldn’t be understood through words, only intuition. Oom Attie was difficult. All his life he was a farmer and on this farm he was in charge.
Oom Attie, the busy farmer could not sit still for long. He had to get to the sheep, the workers, the land. He always made plans and so we let him be; keeping a watchful eye from a safe distance, providing the freedom he desired within the safety of our facilities. As soon as he sees the sheep he would grab a pipe or piece of wood, and walk after them so as to herd them to some destined location only he knows about. And though the sheep were utterly confused as to where they were requested to go, he enjoyed playing the farmer. He would chase them into a camp, and then we would chase them back out as soon as he left. It helped him release much built up energy. The frustration of not being understood, and not knowing who and what he was. But only for a short while…
Oom Attie was a busy man! Because a farmer is a busy man! One day the blood pressure machine was lying on my table. He was fascinated by any machine. He got hold of it and took it apart in many little pieces. Pieces we didn’t even know the machine had. Another day he took his nail clipper, and with that he disassembled the TV remote for us. Oom Attie was a very busy man!
So the next Sunday, she came again with her husband, oom Gerrit. He was his wonderful self and greeted his new friend, oom Attie. Together the two strolled around, looking at the sheep, chasing the peacocks, hand in hand along the winding path that is Dementia. And long after oom Attie left, oom Gerrit still remembered the friend that would walk with him.
And another Sunday, she came to visit again with her husband. But this time she left alone….
He stayed behind.
He was “employed.” We arranged an agreement among all staff that Oom Gerrit was to be seen as an employer at Jura Care Village and not a resident. We did so because Oom Gerrit was still within the early stages of Dementia and so could slightly comprehend (or should I say express) that there was a difference between being a resident in a care facility and working at a care facility. One meant submission while the other involved a certain amount of control and dominance; an aspect of being human that is most difficult and challenging to give up, especially among people with Dementia. Part of his job description was to join the Jura VW transport bus while doing staff rounds; fetching the carers and taking them home. Those rides were a most relaxing and purposeful time for him. It was as if he felt he was still contributing, still alive with purpose, and you could see it in his eyes.
He would always comment on the performance of the bus. “Hy loop soos stroop.” He would say; sometimes coherently and other times only managing to pronounce the first few words. But this expression would always be followed by warm laughter from deep within his belly.
Sadly the time came when the staff rounds began to become more and more difficult for him to partake in and so we put the employee initiative to an end.
So last Sunday on the 2nd of July, she came to visit again! And this time with her three newly adopted grandbunnies!!
She placed the warm fluffy bodies in her husband’s hands, with him hardly knowing who this women was. But he still felt the emotion of familiarity with her as he smiled at her. He is still the man with a sharp sense of humour, as he held on to the bunny in his jacket. But soon with the bunny out of his sight, he forgot the tiny body against him. But he enjoyed the feeling of being happy…
As he put his hand in his pocket; his hand found his harmonica… and he began to play the most beautiful melody for us! I would like to share with you the video of uncle Gerrit playing the harmonica from his heart. And if you listen carefully you can hear beyond the sound, and maybe get a glimpse of what lays within!
The bunnies were happy in the hands of our precious elderly. Sometimes the hands were a little hard, and rough, but the love was still there. Every person understood the fluffiness, the cuteness of the little animals.
Three women sat with the baby bundles in their hands. They “Ooed and Aaahed” the whole afternoon and fed them apples and a cookie or two! When it was time to go, it was hard for some to say good bye!
Aunty Honey was trying to understand the white little thing I gave her… and then it kicked! And she thought it was a baby.
Pastor E loved the bunny and held him in his lap with his old hand stroking the little thing until it fell asleep. Love surrounded these two fragile beings…
I had to go to Uncle G’s room with one of the bunnies. He loves the Cat of the Home and I was sure he would love this little thing. Read Blog Post: ‘Cat Walked Into Our Lives.’
He battles to pronounce words, he battles to say even a short sentence. The words just don’t fit his mouth anymore, and often bring a sad or frustrated frown to his face. So I went to him in his room and sat on his bed. I offered him the little bunny, and at first he was perplexed with the thing in my hands. Finally he gave me his hands and I offered him this furry bundle of cuteness….
Understandable! Making sense! A little miracle…as he said. “Oh you beautiful!…..Now where do we put him?”
And as the visiting hours came to an end, she left and took the bunnies, saying goodbye to her husband….
Does Your Pet Have Dementia? Read Our Blog Post: ‘Does Your Pet Have Dementia?’