Jeanne Osborn Di Muzio
I had set out on my career path of higher education 35 years ago with the intention of garnishing the "rocking chair" and being part of one working family. However as life would have it, times changed and I found myself placed on a new career track - ironically one that paralleled my personal life.
Digging back into my therapeutic recreation background, I started my new work in assisted living and memory care simultaneously with my father's Alzheimer's diagnosis. A hidden blessing on both sides of the coin, I honor my father by gaining insight and understanding and I honor my residents and their families with the sensitivity gained by walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
I have learned firsthand from my residents and their families how fragile their worlds become as they journey the ever changing path of Alzheimer’s. Using “play” therapy is one of many ways I am able to connect with these beautiful people. In the area of recreation, it is truly about “re-creating” one’s self. Helping the resident recall a favorite food or delighting in their recognition of music from their past are the small delights in working with this population. The challenges are many and when a family reaches out for support or is seeking answers to the difficult questions of aging, I am honored to be entrusted with guiding them to a decision, enriching their loved one’s day or simply being a sounding board as they wrap their heads and hearts around their loved one’s status.
When I step back into my personal life, I bring these gifts of experience and knowledge gained, home to assist my mother and my sisters. The difficult days when my dad no longer acknowledges that he ever had children and can only recall having 2 sisters are coupled with days that he can only identify us as the mothers of his beloved grandchildren. Challenges such as taking away the car keys, accepting that he now sleeps until noon and stays up until dawn, devouring cartons of ice cream and jars of peanut butter without recognizing a “full” feeling and hoarding EVERYTHING have become the new “norm”.
The new norm is overwhelming to an aging mother and to daughters (all of whom live distances away) so we have begun to build the network, explore the options and continually chat about the next steps and try to stay ahead of the “8-Ball” we call Alzheimer’s.
The new reality is that we have an aging population of “boomers” coming up on the heels of Alzheimer’s research and treatments that are going to need a larger and more educated infrastructure if we are going to be able to love and support them as they deserve. It is my hope that in my own small way, I can make a difference here in Connecticut as we embrace those we love and support the research for a cure!