On June 28th, Dr. John Zeisel came to Pittsburgh and presented a program at the Carnegie Museum of Art about Art and Alzheimer’s. As is his custom, he described his You Can Make A Difference (YCMAD) philosophy to the audience. I’ve had cause to reflect on this, and I think it’s a very important message.
YOU Can Make A Difference. YOU. One person, one moment, can make a difference for another. Yes, as an organization WE can make a difference, but WE is only a large group of YOU. If YOU don’t do it, WE can’t do it.
This week on my commute, I had a flat tire. I drove on a wing and a prayer to the closest mechanic. The owner came to my car window as soon as I parked and I explained that there is a screw in my tire and asked if they patched tires. He said they didand he quickly jacked up the car, took off the tire, removed a screw and a nail, and returned the patched tire to my car. I asked him the cost and he smiled and said, “In 20 years, I’ve never asked someone to pay for a patched tire. A flat tire shouldn’t ruin anyone’s day.” YOU CAN make a difference.
I came back to the office and stopped into the Activity Room. I watched a Care Partner “dance” with a resident in a wheelchair. This resident smiles easily but seldom strings together an understandable phrase. I watched him smile at the Care Partner and say, “You’re very good!” Wow. Then I had a lunch meeting in the gift shop and saw a very elderly resident come in, pushed in a wheelchair by an aide. The resident had her head down and eyes closed. My wonderful colleague said, “Hi Rhoda!!” and the woman lifted her head, smiled glowingly, and said, “Hello! Thank you for remembering my name!” YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
All of these YOUs add up to WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE, but it starts with YOU. Every day, in the smallest ways. It doesn’t cost anything to greet someone by name in a heartfelt way, or to warn someone that the air hose isn’t working. When I talk to people about dementia care, I try to stress that the skills and knowledge you already possess easily translate into good dementia care. You just need to be present in the moment to see what you can do to make a situation better. Then do it. YOU CAN.