Case Study: "Miriam"

We received a desperate call from a woman in an all too common situation. Her mother- Miriam had been diagnosed with dementia and was starting to show signs of depression and anxiety. Miriam was living alone in a small co-op in NYC with a handful of friends in the neighborhood. Her husband died over 10 years ago and her children were living in Connecticut. Soon after retiring she started volunteering for Unicef, an organization she was passionate about. It kept her busy, connected, and involved. She had to stop this because she could no longer keep the pace and follow through on commitments.

Miriam’s friends slowly started to ignore her and stopped including her on lunch dates, etc. She stopped traveling and spent most of her days inside, lonesome with only the TV for company. Her daughter, desperate for help, tried to sign her mother up for community classes, a senior day care center, and set up 6 hours of home care/day. Miriam balked at her daughter’s ideas- In her mind, she was no old lady, and didn’t want to be seen as one (or with one!) What to do?!

Since Miriam refused to join the senior facility, her daughter was worried her mother would decline even faster without any quality stimulation. AFL met with both the mother and daughter and discussed activities that were meaningful and pleasurable to Miriam. We found ways to stimulate her through creative activities and challenge her mentally.

The rec therapist and Miriam would often go out for lunch at her favorite haunts. While lunching they wrote letters to children in countries all over the world. AFL made it easy. Miriam was able to completely participate- expressing herself and writing to young children. The daughter was thankful to have us around to break down each activity and let her mom have as much control and participation as possible; ALF took care of the rest.

In the end, Miriam attained the feeling of connection, control and empathy. While she wasn't able to physically write the letter on her own, she could still dictate to ALF and we could compose it together. Maybe she stumbled on a word or two... maybe she lost her train of thought a few times. The expertise and specialty of AFL- is that we get it without being intrusive or controlling. We understood that Miriam became frustrated and embarrassed when she couldn't remember something. AFL can read these cues and guide the activities to ones that provide the most benefit and successful outcome.

Now Miriam’s daughter is reassured that her mom is being looked after, and Miriam is enjoying the human connection which gives one one's dignity that was once slipping away.