Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Balloon Toss with the Demented

It sounds so dreary, doesn't it? You sit in your wheelchair and a nurses' aide tosses you a balloon, which you bat back at her, and you volley back and forth several times.

Well, let me tell you how wonderful the balloon toss is in the Alzheimers unit! The first benefit is simply that it wakes the patients up! More than that, it even requires them to become alert. It gets them interacting with another human being. It makes them practice their eye-hand coordination. It is mild upper-body exercise, with arms in the air. And it's fun for them! They nearly all smile while playing this simple game.

When the aide finished and departed, I picked up the balloon and continued the game, batting it around with the various patients in the dayroom. It was the most fun I've had with my dad in years! We kept it up until the young exercise dude came in, sipping his mid-morning coffee and chewing gum, which he removed from his mouth when one old lady began chanting, "No gum, no gum, no gum," about a hundred times.

"Anybody know what day this is?" he asked in his cheeriest voice.

Nobody did.

"It's Tuesday."


"Really?" someone said.

"Fancy that," said another. "Tuesday."

"And what month is it?" the young man continued.


"Well, close. It does start with "M". It's May."

"Well, well, May."

"And the year is two thousand eight," said the exercise dude.

"Two thousand eight," somebody repeated in an effort to remember it.

"And this weekend there is going to be a holiday. It is going to be Memorial Day. Can anybody tell me what we are supposed to remember on Memorial Day?"

"Two thousand eight!" said Dad, enthusiastically.

Oh, well.

The exercises went well. The anti-gum lady chanted, "Please keep it short, keep it short, keep it short," and he did, fifteen minutes.

Mom was discharged last night and is now in the same building with Dad, one floor down from him, in the rehab unit, until she feels stronger. Rossi, their private duty health care aide, takes them to visit each other. Mom, who'd had a manicure and pedicure immediately before her surgery, has now been to the hair salon on her same floor and had a shampoo and set and feels much happier as a result. Last I saw her, she was entertaining a ministeress from her church who had arrived and was chatting with her.

I'm catching a train for home in about an hour, God willing.



Just Mairs said...

Oh my what a hoot! I'll have to try the balloon game next time I'm visiting the nursing home. Reminds me quite a bit of Discovery Basketball: