I’d never thought of myself as a dragon slayer before, but when I consider what I enjoy most about my work at the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter, it seems a fitting metaphor.
What dragon do I get to slay on a regular basis? The dragon of ignorance. I teach family caregivers about the dementias, about behaviors that accompany dementias beginning in about the middle stage of the disease, and how to communicate more effectively with their loved one who is losing the ability to remember, reason, understand, and speak.
I can’t tell you how many families get a diagnosis of a dementia – Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, fronto-temporal dementia (to name just the most common forms) – and have little or no idea how important it is to learn about their form of dementia and how to manage the care of their loved one.
To combat the disease of ignorance, I get to go out into the community, or conduct a series of classes here at the Chapter offices to help caregivers understand what is happening to their loved one, and help them to develop effective strategies for coping with the changes.
My favorite weapon for slaying the dragon is the 8-week class series, Living with Alzheimer’s for the Caregiver. During these 8 weeks, I have the pleasure of bringing caregivers into the light of confident, competent caregiving in meeting the challenges in each of the 3 stages of the disease: early, middle and late. During the series, we weave ourselves together into a supportive group of friends. Along the way of learning, we laugh, and we enjoy one another’s company while appreciating each one’s struggle to provide the best possible care for themselves and their loved one.
Today, a caregiver asked me if I haven’t heard it all and if I don’t get weary of the stories. I told him: “Yes, it’s true that I’ve heard many stories. But I’ve never heard your story. And it’s your uniqueness that keeps me alive and present.” Alive and present to slay one more dragon on his behalf!
Sarah Carson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been with the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter for nearly twelve years.