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People Show Up for Each Other

This is an essay by Joe, a member of the Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Center Patient and Family Advisory Council (MATC PFAC).

Note: All views expressed are opinions of the author of this essay.

It is natural for people to be care partners. VIRUS gives a new view. The occupants of our 43-unit senior living apartment village each have their own challenges. Myself included: my challenges involve getting out by myself occasionally, keeping appointments when my wife, Fran, cannot safely go along, getting her enough exercise (I can no longer walk fast enough), and letting her spend time socially with others while Daybreak Adult Day Services is closed.

Every week, people from a loosely organized group of villagers spend several hours with Fran. They are friends that Fran knows. They safely talk, laugh, walk around the lovely grounds, have lunch in the gazebo, and whatever else suits their fancy. I do other things during this time.

This core group of about a half dozen, helping each other and others, expands by a dozen and a half or more as needed. Sometimes a person is a Carer and sometimes a Caree . Active involvement by over half of our population is wonderful.

For over 5 years they have been providing transportation, grocery shopping, activities, prescription pickup, companionship, ordering stuff, and doing whatever else is needed. Just since the VIRUS started, they have helped people with hip replacements, broken bones, twisted bowels, dental surgery, eye surgery, cancer, strokes, hernia operations, COPD, severe arthritis, loneliness, depression, loss of a spouse, cardiac catheterizations, heart valve replacement, and a kidney transplant, among other things.

The village is an example of a self-directed, minimal structure, care partnership. It is based on the care partner concept of using what you have, doing what you can, when you can.

Fran and I are Care Partners (capital C), defined as “an agreement between the person with a chronic condition and their loved ones to be partners in care as best they can. To help each other while they can as well as they can. This is discussed as part of their life and commitment to each other. Starting when all parties are capable, active participants in each other’s care.” Ideally this behavior starts before clinical signs appear and the transition to caregiving occurs. This is not for everyone. It has worked for us.

The Care Partner concept has many labels and forms: Family, Extended Family, Partners, Friends, Community, Dedication, Commitment, Marriage Vows, Love. Partners may be pairs or a group.

All Care Partnerships rest on the bedrock of focusing on what you can control, which is mainly your own behavior.

We do better when, as much as we can, we help ourselves, help others, and help others help us.

The VIRUS brings home the value of helping yourself and those near and/or dear to you using what you have whether that’s time or car or talent or ... We each belong to many different villages, each interlocking to form society.

People do also need to institute some more formal structures to help with some things, mainly protective issues. When the structures don’t provide what we need, we can work together to fix them.

People show up for each other. Join in.

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