Gerty, is a very dear friend of mine. When I first met Gerty and her husband, Buddy, she was 75 and he was 81. He was in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, and Gerty refused to put him in a nursing home. Their two children were very helpful and, from time to time, Gerty’s friends would offer her respite by staying with Buddy a few hours while she got her hair done, went shopping or out to dinner with her son or daughter.
Gerty faithfully took care of Buddy for ten years after he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She has much to say about helping people with memory loss, and Gerty gave me this advice and asked me to share it with others:
1.) Don’t hurry them. If I hurried Buddy, it would only make him forget and then he would get very confused.
2.) Remind them gently. Buddy could never remember when company was coming or when he had an appointment. There’s no need to raise your voice at them. It is OK for you to be late or not to be completely ready to go right on time. Most people will understand why.
3.) Don’t keep asking them questions. That always made Buddy feel frustrated and like he was being tested.
4.) When they say they don’t know how to do something, just go and help them. No words are needed.
5.) When they start babbling, it means they are afraid. A hug always helped Buddy then.
Gerty says there are ten requests that your loved one with Alzheimer’s makes of you and they are these:
Be patient with me. I have a brain disease that I can’t control.
Talk to me. I may not be able to answer you but I can hear your voice.
Be kind to me. Each day is a struggle for me and your kindness may be my only joy today.
Consider my feelings. They still get hurt.
Treat me with respect. I would if this were you.
Remember my past. I’m still me.
Remember my present. I miss who I used to be.
Remember my future. I don’t want to lose hope.
Pray for me. God still loves me.
Love me. Your love and presence means more to me than anything.
Buddy is gone now. His life is still a blessing because Gerty uses what she learned from Buddy as an outreach of compassion to help many, many people who are walking in Buddy’s shoes.