In meeting with my mom’s doctor, recently, he suggested that my mom doesn’t just need things to do, she needs to feel that what she is doing has purpose. She has often said that she wants to be doing something meaningful. She wants a job. Most of her life, she worked and her work was meaningful. She was a professor, a teacher, a counselor, a psychologist who helped children. It made so much sense what the doctor said. We can’t just give her tasks to do. They needed to have meaning.
I noticed when I brought my dog and she was walking the dog, she seemed to find that meaningful. She talked a lot about what the dog was doing. My dog was “investigating” and “making decisions”. My mom walked with purpose, she was focused outside herself.
One day I came and she was doing a puzzle. The high school student working with her was telling her that she really needed her help. She was not just doing a puzzle to do it; she was helping. The staff at her place have really jumped on board with giving my mom meaningful work. She is now helping to serve ice cream, doing inventory in the “store”, sweeping up after craft projects, and cleaning up after meals. She often does not remember that she has done these things and will still say that she has nothing really to do, but showing her a picture or bringing her to the places where she has helped out have worked in reminding her. I told her just today that they are so fortunate to have her there because they realized they needed extra help to get everything done and she is so good at the work she is doing. She nodded and smiled.
She is not alone in wanting to feel a purpose to her daily life. We all want to feel like what we are doing has meaning. It is just one more reminder that people with Alzheimer’s disease are still people and they have the same needs as we do. It is so nice that she is in a place that understands this!