Saturday, September 7, 2013

Head's Up!

When my father was still functioning pretty well, Sis and I would take him out to eat lunch almost every time we visited him. Dad has always loved food, and it was a way for the three of us to do something enjoyable together. As his Alzheimer's progressed, though, it became more problematic: he'd take forever to decide what to order (even with our help), he'd make a mess of the table, he'd drop food on the floor, he'd require enormous amounts of napkins, he'd spend more time than was polite looking at other diners. You get the idea.

I hated the thought of having to cut out those restaurant meals. I wanted to delay that as long as possible because he still enjoyed them. I knew if I explained to the waitresses, etc. about Dad's Alzheimer's that the problem wouldn't be so bad. They'd be more understanding. (Well, most of them anyway.) On the other hand, though, explaining things to a stranger in front of my father seemed disrespectful (and we were always afraid the word "Alzheimer's" would scare the hell out of him  -- we never used it in front of him).

In short, we needed a way to give people a "head's up" about Dad's illness without upsetting him.

We handled it by carrying small cards (same size as a business card) that said: "The elderly person I'm with has Alzheimer's. Please be patient." We'd give them out at restaurants, hospitals, doctor's offices, anywhere we wanted people to be more patient with and tolerant of my Dad's illness. And it worked well. We didn't have to talk about Dad's condition in front of him (like he wasn't there), and people were more apt to smile at him rather than getting grouchy.

Sadly, Dad doesn't go out much anymore. But with the hope that these cards would be useful to others, I've had some printed using one of my Alzheimer's paintings on the front. (See photos below.) The benefit is twofold: the front of the card promotes Alzheimer's awareness; the back of the card promotes tolerance and understanding. A win-win!

I am making the cards available in my online shop for anyone who would like to purchase them. Cost is minimal, and you don't need many. Usually people will read the card, then hand it back to you to reuse.

I hope you find them useful.

Front of card

Back of card

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