A true friendship often develops between a caregiver and care recipient when doing meaningful activities together.
Jane McManus has been helping people for 40 years—and an Alzheimer’s diagnosis hasn’t stopped her. But now, instead of talking to clients one-on-one, this 75-year-old retired psychotherapist shares her wisdom, her experience, and her advice with a growing audience of readers.
In her first blog post, dated January 4, 2017, Jane explains:
“I spent forty years as a psychotherapist before my diagnosis, so I worked with the brain and mind my entire life. I have watched people overcome some insurmountable odds and been inspired by them, some even in my own family. Here is what I know: your diagnosis is not the definition of who you are, but rather a singular part of you. I am not “Jane with Alzheimer’s” I am Jane; a wife, mother, and accomplished psychotherapist. I also happen to have Alzheimer’s.”
Jane’s partner in writing the blog—Living With Alzheimer’s (recently migrated to WordPress, with a snappy new layout and title: As the Memory Faded)—is Honor Care Pro Alli Espinosa, who provides care in the Dallas area. When Alli met Jane, she saw someone who was much more than her diagnosis, someone who had a tremendous amount to offer. And Alli recognized something they had in common. “A good way to explain Jane—and caregivers in general—is that they are people who find joy and their sense of self in helping others,” Alli said.
Jane talks through her blog ideas while Alli types, then they review and edit together.
During their first care visit, Jane told Alli about a book she wanted to write, a way to support other people living with Alzheimer’s. Jane was particularly interested in sharing what she knew about how to manage the stress and depression that this illness can cause. As Jane said, “I think for any illness, whether it’s cancer or any other disease, stress management can help people through their journey.”
With 13 years of caregiving experience, Alli knew Jane was right. And she knew how important a book like that could be. But she wanted Jane’s story to begin to circulate right away, to begin to help people as quickly as possible—and so the blog was born.
One recent post offers a great example of the mix of storytelling, practical guidance, and warm support that Jane and Alli serve up each week. “In Sickness and In Health,” posted on June 14, 2017, starts with a fall—but it’s not Jane who has taken a tumble, it’s her husband of 40 years, Jerry. He’s not seriously injured, but they’ve both gotten a scare, and Jane realizes how important it is not to take anything, or anyone, for granted.
She reflects in her post:
“As a married couple we all have taken the vow for “in sickness and in health” with the underlying implication being that if you are sick, I will care for you. The great majority of spouses do this with little complaint and do all they can for the ailing spouse. But what happens when both spouses fall ill?”
It’s easy to imagine that a family caregiver will always be strong and able, Jane and Alli remind their readers, but it’s not a matter of gloom and doom to plan for all possibilities—including the illness of a caregiver or his own incapacity.
Staying organized can be a challenge for Jane as her illness progresses. Alli helps with this and much more.
To round out the post, Jane and Alli list a couple of options to help with planning, and a few strategies: Home care (“help with cooking, cleaning, bathing and many other things”), Assisted Living (“not quite what assisted living used to be”), Prevention (“grab bars in the bathroom, removal of loose rugs and cords on the ground, non-slip mats in the shower, etc.), and Learning to Fall (“Go to your local gym and see if there is a way that someone there can teach you how to fall, and to do so without serious injury”).
Other blog themes range from the importance of being open about illness, to the joys of dance and music, to useful tips on the value of Medic-Alert bracelets—and the handy trick of tying colored ribbon on hidden zippers to make them easier to find.
Just a few weeks ago, Jane wrote a post on her own without Alli’s help or input (as noted in the header). It was about the power of friendship. She writes about the joy of reconnecting with an old friend whom she hasn’t seen since her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The two friends spend hours talking about life, family, and illness and leave “elated” to be back in touch. Jane concludes the post by speaking directly to her readers: “I want to thank you all for your friendship because it is a wonderful gift in this time of challenge.” And she thanks Alli for helping her with the blog, as she feels she wouldn’t have done it on her own.
Perhaps the most powerful lesson of As the Memory Faded has to do with the way Jane and Alli work together so seamlessly, their friendship evident in each blog post.
Even with a diagnosis, many people are reluctant to hire a professional caregiver—they’re not ready to invite a stranger into their homes, not sure what to ask them to do. Someone might even believe that having someone care for them means life is winding down. But Alli and Jane have not only started something completely new together, they are having fun doing it.
Spending time together each week while helping others has created a special friendship.
Alli’s description of one of the duo’s writing sessions tells it all:
“We were in our socks and we were both lying on the floor on Jane’s yoga mat, just stretching out and talking. Every once in a while I’d say, ‘Oh, man, that’s really good, let’s put that in the blog.’ Then I’d get on the computer and type it, and I would get back on the floor with her and then we’d just keep stretching. We have a lot of fun together, honestly. We have a lot of fun.”
Honor has Care Professionals you’ll love, trained to meet your needs for companionship, lifestyle support, and personal care. To learn more, give us a call at (877) 777-5116.