HAMLET — Hamlet Senior Center Director Nikki Sewell led a small group in a candlelight vigil honoring patients with Alzheimer’s and “other forms of dementia” and their caregivers at the Cole Auditorium Thursday night.
Pee Dee Baptist Association’s Dr. C.J. Bordeaux prayed the invocation, and Mayor Bill Bayless read his proclamation naming November Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Caregivers Month as well as its companion proclamation from President Barak Obama.
Lisa Ledford of Liberty Home Care and Hospice, who cares for her mother with Alzheimer’s, shared a personal vignette in the form of a brief theatrical monologue consisting of a series of events taking place in a single day, as seen through the eyes of a caregiver.
“Knock-knock-knock,” she opened the scene, rapping on the podium. It began in the morning, with the daughter stopping by on her way to work, trying to encourage her mother to eat breakfast.
“Mama, it’s me,” she said. “Come open the door!”
Seconds later, “Oh. It’s open,” she said, letting herself in.
“Mama, are you here? Where are you?”
Finding her mother, she smiles and offers her the food.
“Look, I brought your breakfast this morning,” she said. “There you are, sausage and gravy biscuit, your favorite. Here, why don’t you sit down and eat? You know, I’ve got to get to work in a few minutes, but I want you to go ahead and have your breakfast.”
After a pause, “Oh, you love sausage and gravy biscuits. Come on, please eat this.”
But the mother, who is neither seen nor heard in the dramatization, seemed to turn her head away.
“You don’t want it?” asked Ledford. “Why don’t I fix you some oatmeal? Would you eat that? Here, please try this oatmeal.”
After managing to get her mother to take a bite or two, Ledford explained she was leaving for work but would be back in a few hours to take her mother to a doctor’s appointment. She told her to get dressed and be waiting — and to lock the door.
When she comes to pick up her mother at 10 a.m., she finds her dressed in a sleeveless shift with sandals on — but it is winter.
“Oh, we don’t have time to change,” the daughter says. “We’ll just put a coat on. Come on.”
By day’s end, the mother and her daughter-caregiver have overcome an exhausting number of hurdles many people take for granted: they’ve made it to the doctor’s appointment; the daughter learned the mother’s dementia is progressing; they returned to the mother’s home (where the mother repeatedly leaves the door either unlocked or open); and dealt with yet another increasingly common fall.
The entire “play” takes all of five minutes.
“What you have just witnessed is just a glimpse into a day in the life of a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient,” Ledford said. “Statistics tell us, 43.5 million people have provided unpaid care to another adult or to a child in the last 12 months. Of these, 15.7 million adult caregivers care for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Four in ten U.S. adults are caring for a loved one with a serious illness and one in three are doing it by themselves.”
Ledford had the audience participate in a short exercise, asking a series of questions and having each person stand and remain standing when one applied to him. By the end, everyone in the room was standing.
“Look at all of these folks standing with you,” she said. “You are not alone. We are all caregivers. We are as diverse as the United States as a whole. We have every age, every gender, every socioeconomic group, every racial and ethnic group. But you’re not off the hook yet — give yourselves a huge round of applause.”
Karen Steen of Richmond County Adult Protective Services read the poem, “A Prayer for the Caregiver,” by Bruce McIntyre before Sewell led the lighting of the candles.
Sewell said she wanted to thank special sponsors Community Home Care and Hospice, City of Hamlet, Hillside Florist, Lumber River Council of Governments, Liberty Homecare and Hospice, Richmond Pines Healthcare and Rehabilitation, Pee Dee Baptist Association, Richmond Community College, Richmond County Adult Protective Services and Richmond County Aging Services.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.