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Positive Aspects of Caregiving

By Priscilla Fritter Peterson, Ruth Brinn, Marcia S. Marx, PhD
& Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD

(Page 3 of 3)

I once heard a person say about his father with Alzheimer’s disease, “There’s no point in visiting him - he doesn’t even know my name anymore.” This was heartbreaking to me; just because a person with Alzheimer’s can’t remember your name, it certainly doesn’t mean that they do not know you on a deeper level or need your presence and love. My mother did not say my name during her last years, but the knowing smile or touch that she would give me left no doubt in my mind that she knew I was her daughter, and made my efforts to nurture her one of the most gratifying things I have ever done. I will always remember one day when my mother was first beginning to have trouble with word retrieval. I was at her house when someone stopped by and my mother said, “I want you to meet Priscilla. She’s my…” Suddenly she trailed off and I realized she couldn’t think of the word “daughter.” But then she finished with, “She’s my best friend.” I could not have had a greater compliment.


As seen from the narrative, it is possible to create and maintain a satisfying role in the care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, the factors listed earlier as contributors to a positive caregiving experience resonate in the daughter’s narrative. For instance, the daughter describes how the special close relationship that she and her mother had in the past did not end with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but instead continued until her mother’s death. The daughter made use of their shared love of music in the past to elicit fond memories for her mother in the present. The daughter remembered the caring attention her mother provided during her childhood and now wanted to reciprocate; not because it was her duty, but simply because she wanted to. Her commentary is poignant and her conclusion is apt: she would treat her mother as she would want to be treated.


Priscilla Fritter Peterson is a retired professional musician who was a member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra for 28 years, 15 years as Principal Flutist; Ruth Brinn is a retired educator, author of children’s craft books, and currently volunteers as an activity facilitator at an assisted living facility; Marcia S. Marx, PhD and Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD, who have received grants from NIH, the Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations and have conducted and published the results of their gerontological research over the past 25 years, are currently affiliated with Innovative Aging Research.


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