By Kathryn Cherkas
Program Manager, Friendship Center Montecito
“We may not remember the past or be sure of the future, but we can cherish this bright and shining moment.”
A few years ago a Program team member told me her favorite part of working with our members was “bringing joy to the now.” That really stuck with me, and has become one of the first things I share when explaining my job. Because February felt like it lasted about a hundred days, let’s go into March with a hopeful outlook, remembering why we provide care to our loved ones: to bring joy to their now.
First, let’s talk about what this means… when a new member comes to Friendship Center, we love to learn about them–their life story, past experiences, and passions. Just as important is to get to know what makes our new friend happy NOW.
For example, your loved one may have been a prolific artist in the past, but now crayons and an adult coloring book are what bring a twinkle in their eye. Or maybe it’s playing bingo that puts the biggest smile on their face! An important aspect of bringing joy to the now is accepting where members are in the moment. Whatever version of them got out of bed that morning–the point is they did get out of bed, now we get to find ways of bringing them joy.
This can be difficult and maybe sad for you as a caregiver–seeing your loved one move away from the things you’ve watched them enjoy for so many years. But try to remember that being a caregiver is about taking care of the person as they are now.
Weaving pieces of their life story into currently enjoyed activities–their coloring pages could be outlines of their own work, or try “famous artist themed bingo”–can make the difference between regular care and person-centered care.
While dementia is a disease, it’s important to not lose sight of the person in caring for their condition. We, of course, want to know about their challenges but we also want to know about their strengths, abilities, and joys in the present.
At Friendship Center, our goal is to make our members (and their families) feel heard and happy. We welcome whatever versions of our friends walk through the door and are committed to finding what makes them smile today.