Love Still Lives Here and Juanita
One sunny, warm afternoon in Central Texas, I set off to visit with Juanita, a very special lady. She lives about an hour from me, so that gave me some time to think about my project, Love Still Lives Here. Even after years working as a nurse practitioner in the care of elderly and their families, each family interview and photo session has been an amazing, eye opening experience for me.
About Love Still Lives Here
Love Still Lives Here is a project/book about families living with Dementia. It's a culmination of 8-12 stories of families and the love that they have for one another. Their stories range from when they first learned that they or their loved one had the disease to how they manage day to day. Very interesting themes have emerged! Love Still Lives Here is a book about the love in families and people with dementia. After years of being in reverence of families caring for loved ones with dementia, I realized these stories of LOVE and DEVOTION need to be shared with the world. These are the stories so rarely heard. Love Still Lives Here is about the many expressions of love and will certainly entertain, inspire and open your heart.
I’m honored to tell you a little about Juanita. Her story will be a chapter in the book, Love Still Lives Here with an expected publication date January 2017.
I met Juanita's daughter, Dixie, at a photography workshop luncheon where I shared my project Love Still Lives Here. She told me about their experience with dementia. We talked a little about how Juanita’s family has learned to care for her while respecting and honoring her wishes. Dixie welcomed the idea of contributing to Love Still Lives Here, and we set a date!
Juanita welcomed me to her beautiful home which is a mix of town living and country peaceful. She wasn’t quite sure what I was there for, but was open to the experience. She has the same 24/7 caregivers although she doesn't always remember their names. She recognized her daughter which she typically does. She had a difficult time remembering why I was there but we had no trouble repeating the information each time as if it was the first time she had asked. After chatting with Juanita and Dixie and taking a few photographs, Dixie and I met alone for much of the interview. Although Juanita admits to some memory problems, she has little insight about her cognitive problems. This is not unusual for people with dementia, but requires a lot of patience for families and caregivers.
The Beautiful Truth
There has been a truth, a theme that has evolved with each family interviewed. This truth has ranged from hope, prayer, loyalty, healing environment and more. Juanita’s daughter’s truth is Patience. Patience and dementia is an important coupling, but not always an easy feat. Dixie’s advice for families caring for a loved one with dementia is to be patient and expect the unexpected. They’ve learned to follow Dixie’s lead with gentle redirection. Juanita is a strong, successful, intelligent woman with little insight into her memory/cognitive problems. While this isn’t unusual, it can be challenging for families caring for someone who believes they are perfectly capable when evidence points to the contrary.
Patience, Support and Going it Together
When Dixie visits with another family member or friend, she finds they experience more joy and laughter than if she visits alone. Patience is easier to foster when another family member or friend joins her for a visit. I applaud her for recognizing this and taking care of herself too! Caregiving and providing for an elderly loved one/parent with dementia can be very challenging and self care is not an option. Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to.