As Alzheimer's disease begins to wear away the memory and cognitive functioning of an older adult, caregivers are sometimes so distracted by the disease process that they fail to recognize the inner struggle of the resident. One key aspect of this struggle is the loss of contribution to society, represented as the occupational component of the six dimensions of wellness. Residents who once defined themselves by their service to their country, their community, and their family recognize their inability to perform in these roles and subsequent depression sets in.
This morning National Public Radio aired an intriguing, at least reassuring, story on a study that was pairing these residents with intergenerational volunteer opportunities. The story highlighted several assisted living residents, including a woman (with Alzheimer's disease) that was such a great volunteer that last year she won her city's volunteer of the year award - and didn't know why.
This story is a wonderful way to illustrate to caregivers the inner turmoil faced by those they love and take care of - and poses at least one solution to improving their lives, even if it's forgotten five minutes later.