Caring around the clock

When friends or family visit a loved one who has dementia, Heritage Homes resident assistant Pam Evans can relate. Her husband, Robert, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple years ago, at a fairly young age. He continues to live at home with Pam, who cares for him before and after her full-time job serving older adults in assisted living.

Pam and Robert met in 2010 and have been married four years, a second marriage for both. Dementia first became evident in Robert’s work. He would put sticky notes on his computer, but forget what they were for. He got lost during his daily commute and had to restart tasks because he lost track of what he was doing. Heeding his doctor’s advice, Robert retired early.

Before she leaves for work in the morning, Pam organizes pill boxes, medication and an inhaler for Robert, then checks the refrigerator to make sure he has something to eat without turning on the stove.

Pam2.jpg“I try to keep things simple for him. He’s got his routine — recliner, TV, coffee,” Pam said. “I call home every day at lunch to make sure everything’s OK.”

When Heritage Homes opened in 2010, Pam was one of its first team members. Bringing joy to others is at the heart of what she does — “I want to make every day the best that I can for residents,” Pam said.

“Pam builds wonderful, trusting relationships with both residents and team members,” said Barbara Butler, Heritage Homes Administrator. “Her concern for others is very evident as she thrives on the interpersonal relationships and individualized care she gives each of our residents.  She encourages teamwork and leads by example.”

While she spends most of her day serving assisted living residents, Pam also passes out medication for residents in memory care. She makes conversation, tries to get residents smiling and laughing and watches how the memory care team interacts with everyone.

“The team is very caring. They have so many activities to engage residents and are always looking for ways to help them exercise their brains,” Pam said.

Heritage Homes has provided resources for Pam to keep Robert at home, where he wants to stay as long as possible. Through work, she’s been able to ask questions and connect with home health care providers, the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Dodge County and others. She’s seen the value in finding a support group, and now feels closer to residents and family dealing with dementia.

“I can feel for them because I know what they’re going through, to see your loved one changing,” Pam said. “I know his children have a hard time understanding what’s happening to their dad. They see the changes that their dad has gone through, and he’s not the same person as they remember. It’s kind of hard for me too because in some ways he’s not the same person that I met.”

But he’s still someone she loves, and Pam appreciates all the time she has to spend with him. “I tell my husband we have to live every day to the fullest; we can’t let this drag us down,” Pam said.

Looking for support for you or a loved one? Find out more about the Memory Cafe, a social gathering for those with memory loss and their caregivers.