Wow, I'm incredibly awed and encouraged by all of you. Thank you so much for welcoming me into your forum. I feel blessed to read your stories and to share my own story about my special friend in the nursing home.
I have been reading through all of your posts over the last several days, and I am deeply touched in my heart by each and every one of you.
Lyn...I didn't realize that you recently lost your Mom. I'm so sorry. Your love for her clearly continues to shine. She must have been a remarkable woman to have had such a wonderful daughter. Thank you for all you have done to support others dealing with Alzheimer's.
Padraig...Your story brought tears to my eyes. I have not yet married, but when I do, I pray that I can find a husband as devoted and loving as you. You truly inspire me. Alzheimer's may be robbing your wife's memory, but it is not robbing your love for her. Thank you for sharing your story. I will keep both you and Jean in my thoughts and prayers.
Lyn..You asked me to share more about my dear friend. Thank you so much for providing me with this opportunity. This gracious lady has changed my life in many ways, and I often wonder if we were destined to meet one another. I have been her friend, but she has also been my friend - a very special one too. Even though she is 55 years older than me, I feel a connection with her that cannot be accurately described with words.
I first met Carolyn shortly before Christmas of this past year. My two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had just been certified as Therapy Dogs, and our first official visit was to one of the nursing homes in my area. Little did I know that I would soon form a close friendship with one of the residents of that home. When my dogs and I first entered Carolyn's room, I could definitely tell that I was in the presence of a die-hard dog lover. On her walls, paintings of all of her dogs in her life proudly hung. In addition, many framed pictures of her dogs were carefully placed around her room. Her bed was full of dog stuffed animals. So, as you can imagine, when she saw my two smiling spaniels rush over to her side, she started clapping her hands in excitement. "Put them in my lap," she kept repeating. After I carefully placed one of my dogs in her lap, she hugged him and smothered him in kisses. We stayed about thirty minutes that day, and as we were leaving, she asked if I would return with my dogs for another visit. I promised that I would. And that promise I have held, and will continue to hold, until the very end.
After that first visit, I began returning at least once a week to see Carolyn. After placing my dogs in her lap, or in her bed with her, we would share stories. I began to learn more about her and her past during our many conversations. She had been totally independent until about three years ago, when she had a stroke that left her unable to care for herself. Shortly before that time, she had lost her sister, who was her best friend. There was no other family to care for her, so she had to placed in a nursing home. Because no beds were available in the city in which she lived, they had to place her in a home three hours away, in the city in which I live. That meant that she had to leave her friends and neighbors, which upset her greatly. What particularly devastated her, however, was that she had to find another home for her beloved dog. When I asked if the person that took the dog ever sent her pictures or updates, she replied with tears in her eyes, "No, I asked them not to. It would hurt too much." Of course, that broke my heart.
I began to notice that her memory problems were increasing as the months passed. She would often become incredibly frustrated with herself when she couldn't remember something. Also, I noticed that any excitement or unusual change in routine only worsened her memory problems. What most disturbed me, however, was that she was seeming more lonely and sad. When my dogs and I arrived at her room, she was always sitting in her chair with a sad and distant stare. Once she saw that my dogs and I had come to visit, however, her face would light up. Clearly, she needed my dogs, and somehow, my dogs sensed that as well. We began to visit her more often, and we spent longer times with her.
Now, my friend has good days and bad days. Usually, when we first arrive for a visit, she has the most memory problems. Interestingly, after she has been holding my dogs for about fifteen minutes, she does much better. For her entire life, dogs have been incredibly important in keeping her happy and healthy, and I think that now the same holds true. Sometimes, when we leave, she shuts down.
I know that life in a nursing home has been incredibly hard for her. She once told me that all she wants is for a dog to sleep in her bed again. I wish that I could do more for her. For now, I'm just trying my best to educate myself on Alzheimer's, and of course, we visit her often. Every time she forgets something, though, my heart sinks. She really feels like a grandmother now. No matter what, my dogs and I will continue to visit her, even if she ever gets to the point that she no longer recognizes us.
I apologize for my long post. When I write, I just type and type away. Thank you again for all of your support. It's time to put my therapy dogs in the bed. Now, I'm grateful for just the simple things like that.
Take good care,