A man named John is the loving husband and care partner for his wife Mary, who has Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, Mary started with aphasia early in her illness making it hard for her to initiate conversation verbally although she retains the ability to read aloud. John enrolled himself and Mary in separate support groups and was told by the leader of Mary’s group that she was unable to share much, which limited the support she got from other group members. The support group leader and John came up with a clever technique where John would write up a summary of their recent activities from Mary’s perspective. Mary read the summary in the group when it was her turn to share. The technique literally gave Mary back her voice and increased the connections she was able to make with other members of the group.
This is an important story in showcasing choices care partners can make once they know about community resources to look for, they understand the potential benefit, and they can get creative when a pivot is needed.
- John and Mary were not stuck in the stigma of dementia. They acknowledge that they both live with Alzheimer’s: Mary with the disease and John as her care partner
- John actively seeks and engages both of them in supportive activities
- When the support group they selected for Mary didn’t work as well as they hoped, John didn’t give up, he got creative
- He felt sad that his beautiful and kind-hearted wife was unable to connect with her group members, but not for long
- John acknowledged the skills Mary had lost, but instead chose to focus on Mary’s ability to read aloud
- Then he got creative in helping her to communicate using a skill that remained
- The fact that Mary attended her support group also allowed John to attend his support group. If he gave up, he would have felt powerless and ineffective. That support outlet would have evaporated for both of them, and his stress would likely have increased without relief or respite