Is your loved close to caregivers?
There’s a new study out by researchers at John Hopkins and Utah State University that suggests Alzheimer’s patients benefit from having a close relationship with their caregivers. This intimacy seems to directly correlate to the progression of the disease. I’m posting the link to the release about the study here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090722191219.htm, but you can also go online and find it in September 2009’s The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. In essence, the researchers say that this emotional tie to a caregiver can make the difference between the patient living at home or in a care facility.
Reading this, I was reminded that despite the difficulties we’ve had in securing care for my mother — and it’s a complicated patchwork now of family, paid help and Medicaid employees — we are fortunate Mom has always made an emotional connection with her caregivers.
I’m thinking in particular of a cousin who helps us out, one of the many primas with whom I grew up on the border. As teens we hung out at family events such as quinceañeras, weddings, even funerals. She lost her own mother while she was still quite young, just a child if I recall correctly, yet she’s always been an ebullient soul — always ready to laugh, to poke affectionate fun. Her cheerfulness is contagious; most of the time, anyway. I do recall after one New Year’s Eve dance several of us cousins crashed at our grandfather’s house and the house was so cold that when I crawled into bed my teeth chattered and I swore that some idiot had made the bed with wet sheets. It was silly, of course. The temperatures just made the bed feel wet. But my prima laughed and laughed and laughed at me. I was furious. She and another cousin huddled together for warmth, and I stayed in my cold bed, despite their exhortations to swallow my pride and crawl in bed with them so I could get warm and we could talk about the dance.
Years later, my cousin still laughs about that night. Me, I am learning to appreciate her natural bent for happiness because it infuses every task as she keeps an eye on my mom. Some nights when I call, my mother doesn’t remember my cousin’s name, nor does she recall that they are related by blood. But Mom will fill me in on the details of their day: they walked to the store; they bought a cantaloupe and my cousin made fresh juice with it; they prayed the rosary; they called one of my uncles on the phone. These are the things that fill my mother’s day and that make her happy.
I hear my cousin’s joy in my mother’s voice, and for that, I am grateful.