Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Banality of Good (+ Bonus Picture of the Starsky Sweater)

Good Work

I'm off to work soon, this warm Saturday morning--already 30ºF, so I can bike again. Today I am training in a new Activities Assistant---there's always supposed to be two, but there's just been me for five months... The pay is so low, applicants keep turning down the job.

But I'm getting happier and happier there---it'll be hard to leave...
The pay sucks, yes, but now that my boss talks to me regularly (since I asked for that), I really like working with her. 

She trusts that the residents and I will together figure out what activities to do (and we do)--how great is that?
I've always worked best at Independent Study.

I'm most interested in art making, and how far people with dementia can take it. 
The Marketing Director helped me hang some of the quilt pieces in our foyer gallery space last week, and she said, with some surprise, "These are really artistic."

They are. 

And educational too: they clearly show that dementia doesn't erase individuality. I'm wondering if eventually we might show them further afield...

I'd like to show this side of life with dementia because people are so terrified of it---yet another person told me recently that she's going to kill herself if she gets Alzheimer's.

Of course it is terrifying... but as my 89-y.o. auntie says, so is old age. You could say you were going to kill yourself rather than face aging at all---it's a crap shoot how bad (or good) it's going to be.
For that matter, so is all of life.

What I think we as a people could do is 
to step up to helping one another more
What people with dementia need is a lot of help from other people--dementia puts you in a very dependent state. 
We manage it with babies and toddlers...

About a quarter of the people who live where I work could, conceivably, live at home if they had a bunch of people to share the work of helping them. Of course, that's not how our (my, U.S.) society is structured, I understand, but my point is, dementia isn't necessarily torture (OK, yes, it can be), but being alone and helpless and sick is.

You know the concept of the banality of evil.
Well, I'd say Good is banal too. I used to think good vs evil were like Saint Francis vs. Hitler, but on an everyday level it's often more like, do you help your old neighbor with their trash cans, or not? 

Oh dear, I'm preaching...
So here's a picture of Starsky & Marilyn Monroe wearing sweaters.


Zhoen said...

Maybe if they did some job fair type outreach, get a high school student who needs job experience or extra credit? Not that they'll stay more than a year or so, but if you get a kid who needs a reference and a chance to learn on their way to a compatible profession, with a flexible schedule, they can be amazing.

Old age ain't for sissies.

Fresca said...

ZHOEN: You're right--they should just focus on that pool of job seekers--very young ones.
In fact, that's exactly who did finally accept the job:
a young woman studying early childhood ed. at community college.

I, personally, would LOVE it if she already knew anything about Activities with Old People, but she's sweet-natured and patient and that's worth a whole lot.

P.S. My auntie is always quoting that too-- "old age ain't for sissies."

Clowncar said...

As much as I'd like to embrace the "dementia as an frightening but exciting journey" thing, I find it more terrifying than old age, or life itself. Yes, it takes a village, and we could all do more to help each other. But it is a terrifying journey, for both the patient and the caretaker, and utterly draining.

Fresca said...

CLOWNCAR: I am so sorry I've implied that dementia is a "frightening but exciting journey," and I apologize to you, who I know has suffered along with your whole family from this hideous disease that has taken your wife.

I *do* get excited by my work with people with dementia, especially when people create things that display their individuality or when we together manage to hit upon moments of joy, and perhaps it's that excitement that I have carelessly let spill over into what could be taken as a general view of dementia itself.

Please believe me I do not see slow brain death as some sort of spiritual gift or any of that rubbish, any more than I see suicide that way.

I want to be really clear about this, so I just wrote a post that I hope clears up any misconceptions:

Thank you for writing, and, again, I apologize. Because you've pointed it out I will be able to be more careful in the future to separate my excitement about the people I work with from my pain at the disease they live with.