At Cerna Home Care, we strive to create an environment that brings our clients peace and tranquility. For people with dementia and Alzheimer’s tranquility can, at times, be tough to attain. It is especially important to determine what triggers discontent and then take measures, sometimes quite creative measures, to alleviate it.
Our client Deidra has Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is like living in tunnel vision where every day, the tunnel slightly narrows; eventually cognition becomes a mere pinpoint of light. In many Alzheimer’s cases, there is a memory that “sticks” and often Alzheimer’s clients find peace and familiarity in this happy place. Although Deidra does have a happy place, it was causing her agitation. It was a place she often went – and she still wanted to go to, but could not. Her happy place was the department store Montgomery Ward. Montgomery Ward closed the last of its stores 14 years ago.
Deidra would speak of Montgomery Ward – what she needed to buy, how her mom used to take her there, and how much fun she had taking her own children to the store. These daily musings would be pleasant recollections that would turn to upset when her Cerna caregiver and family had to gently refuse her requests to go to the now defunct department store.
Cerna presented an idea to Deidra’s family suggesting, “If Deidra cannot go to Montgomery Ward, then let’s bring Montgomery Ward to her.” The family was a bit skeptical, but gave Cerna Home Care the green light to make it happen.
Deidra’s living room was converted to a Montgomery Ward, which even included a store sign. Cerna purchased a cash register for her filled with fake money. Small appliances were removed from the kitchen and bath, placed in the “store” and priced for purchase. Clothes from Deidra’s room as well as all the living room furniture and decor were tagged for purchase.
What a thrill for Deidra to be back in the store she loved – shopping with a great sense of contentment and independence. Deidra would shop in the living room, make her purchases at the register and bring them to her bedroom. Quietly, when she was resting, her Cerna caregiver would place all the items back in her home store for Deidra’s next shopping trip. Deidra even returned a toaster that she felt was not working properly – politely asking for “the manager” who assured her the toaster would be replaced.
This Montgomery Ward experience is very real for Deidra; it has had a considerable positive impact on her demeanor, energy level and emotional state. It clearly illustrates how we must adapt to an Alzheimer’s care recipient’s world if we are to make that world as pleasant as possible. Not the other way around.
Marc Friedman, Cerna’s Senior Vice President of Client Care explains “This type of creative game accomplished positives things for Deidre – it is calming to her and it stimulates her mind with all the important cognitive exercise.” He went on to say, “It is important to us at Cerna to provide cognitive stimulation to clients that is interesting to them – and improves the quality of their lives.”