People often ask how I cope with a job that’s so sad. The concern in their eyes is deep and genuine. They wonder how I can go to work every day and witness people who are dealing with memory loss, who are not going to get better, and who rely on the staff at ASEB to help them with the some of the most basic tasks of everyday life.
I understand their fear and the perceptions that underlie it. But I’m here to say that my job is not all doom and gloom. On the contrary, it is deeply fulfilling, it brings happiness and pride—sometimes it’s even fun. That’s because I, and everyone who works at ASEB, are looking at the person—of what remains of their strength and spirit—rather than at the disease, at what they’ve lost.
Don’t get me wrong: Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. It affects individuals and their loved ones in ways that many of us don’t want to think about. And as our population ages, the disease is reaching epidemic proportions, while the funds needed to care for individuals with memory loss are dwindling. There’s no doubt that we face tremendous challenges, as do our participants and their caretakers. But the people we serve are so capable of giving. And we keep them alive, it’s as simple as that. Knowing that is worth so much.
I invite you to come to ASEB and see for yourself what it’s like. I know that you will learn a lot not just about Alzheimer’s, not just about growing older, not just about memory loss—but about yourself, about your relation to others, about life itself. You will see that life is its moments, the way we relate to each other one-on-one. You will grasp what’s essential in each of our beings, the things that never go away. I witness this transformation every day with interns, volunteers, and staff. They all say that their assumptions were wrong, that they couldn’t imagine how rich the exchange could be. They learn to see the person and not the disease. Volunteers switch careers, interns decide to go to medical school, and young people pursue routes that allow them to work in fields related to health care. Their lives are changed. They get hooked. I’m pretty sure you will, too.
Our staff comes to work each day from a place of non-judgment, from a place of loving care. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that our staff loves our participants, loves them like family, not because they need to, but because they honestly love and care for them. And believe me, our participants can feel that love. So when all the cognitive differences have been taken away, the person in that moment still remains, the human being, the spirit. We are here with their souls, not their losses. We deal with what is. We’re here with something that’s fresh and new every moment. We’re here because we want to be here. It’s more than a job. Everyone feels it.
Lacking a cure for Alzheimer’s, we help people live with it. We help families make each day a little easier, more enjoyable, and more meaningful. I invite you to change the way you think about memory loss, to see for yourself what makes ASEB so essential. And I ask you to talk to your coworkers, your neighbors, your family. Please spread the word. Visit our website and follow our Facebook page to find out the many ways that you can be a part of our effort.
With warm gratitude for your time and support,