Saturday, June 4, 2011

Learning Never Ends


Helping people stay as independent as possible, for as long as possible is one of our goals. Joe, a very independent person who had lived an active out door life was very happy when he learned once again how to be successful in some basic self help skills.

By Tom and Karen Brenner
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Learning Never Ends
We work with people living with Alzheimer’s in all sorts of settings, and in every one of these settings we find people who are still curious, still able to learn.

We also find people who teach us so much! When we first started our work in Alzheimer’s, we thought that we would be the ones who would be doing all of the giving. To our great surprise, we discovered that we receive much more than we give. We have received the gifts of wisdom, humor and courage from so many of the people we met who are living with Alzheimer’s.


From Joe, a ninety four year old Indiana farmer, we learned the importance of creating and sticking to a simple plan for success in life.

Joe started farming in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. He and his wife learned to live on just what they earned selling their milk and eggs; they saved all of the money they made from selling their hogs.

They never touched the hog money, even when times grew very, very lean. Eventually, they were able to save enough money for a down payment on the eighty acre farm they were renting. Before too many years, they were able to buy it outright. Joe’s simple lesson taught us the importance of staying true to your dreams, even when times are very rough.

This is a great lesson for all of us today, as we face our own hard times. Joe never remembered our names, but he knew that we appreciated the life lessons that he shared with us.

We helped Joe re-learn how to zip his jacket and how to hold eating utensils. We did this by introducing him to Montessori tools that promote eye hand coordination and range of motion. Because muscle memory tends to be less affected by Alzheimer’s, we often use exercises that engage repetitive muscle movement.

Helping people stay as independent as possible, for as long as possible is one of our goals. Joe, a very independent person who had lived an active out door life was very happy when he learned once again how to be successful in some basic self help skills.

It is a toss up when we try to decide if we helped Joe more, or if Joe helped us more. The answer would have to be that we helped each other. Joe was very happy when he could zip his own jacket again, and he was even happier when he could share some of the wealth of wisdom that he collected over his long life. We have a saying in our house now,

“This check will go into the hog money fund!”



Tom and Karen Brenner are Montessori Gerontologists, researchers, consultants, trainers and writers dedicated to working for culture change in the field of aging. They are the authors of  You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care. Learn more about Tom and Karen at Brenner Pathways

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Original content Tom and Karen Brenner, the Alzheimer's Reading Room