Carol Howell Talks Dementia: A Masterpiece

It looks like a pile of wadded painter’s tape to the average person. To me it looks like a completed project. Painters tape is removed once the work is finished. It is the unveiling of a masterpiece. At my house, that “masterpiece” was a bedroom. The walls were smooth, clean, and pale green. The work was completed, and the wadded up painter’s tape was evidence of that work.

IMG_0407(1)The tape made me think of our human tendency to judge people by what we see. If they are well-groomed and well-dressed, we assume they come from money. If they are disheveled and wearing torn clothing, we assume they live in a box somewhere outside. After all, what individual with money and resources would look “that way.” But I ask, “What WAY is that? Must we appear a certain way to be accepted in society?” Unfortunately, we know the answer to this question, and that answer also drastically affects how we treat individuals with late stage Alzheimer’s.

I have clients who have histories that would amaze you if you took the time to learn. Yet, they may have bad breath, smell of urine, or their clothes may be too big. Does this lessen their need for respect? Does it make them less of a person? Many people no longer receive the care they deserve because they are no longer as well-groomed or well-dressed as they may have once been.

One lady comes to mind. She was voted best dressed woman in Charlotte, North Carolina two years in a row. She socialized with the elite of Charlotte, and everyone knew her and her husband. Her clothing was tailored for her. Her jewelry was big and noticed. Her shoes were the finest Italian leather. Her hair was always perfect. Then Lewy Body Disease took residence in her brain, and dementia soon followed. The social circle no longer included her. The Italian leather shoes were replaced with tennis shoes (which she adamantly refused to wear). If her caregivers had any idea of her history, they would have been shocked.

The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind. It is true with people, also. Take the time to learn about their past. You just might learn she once served in the White House and was privy to top secret information. Did you know he was a lawyer, an ordained minister, AND a politician? Can you believe she was a famous pediatrician? Oh the stories they have shared with me, and it was because I took the time to ask.

No, that is not a pile of used painter’s tape. It is a finished masterpiece.

Hope that gives you Something to Ponder.

Carol Howell
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