By Julie Bigham
My passion for bringing joy to the lives of seniors began at an early age, when my gramps encouraged me to entertain at his Senior Center. Fifteen minutes of stand up, egged on by applause from the crowd, ignited a spark of love in my heart for the older generation. Thirty plus years later that spark has erupted into a full flame of passion for providing support to professional and family caregivers caring for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s.
Through my work experience as an activity professional, it became evident to me that providing high quality, compassionate care for those living with Alzheimer’s takes a village, and family engagement in any setting is vital. Families can become overwhelmed with doctor visits, medication changes, increasing care needs, and care plan meetings, not to mention the emotional stress. With everything they juggle, families can forget the importance of spending quality time having fun with their loved one, often spiraling into isolation and depression.
While some family caregivers spend hours visiting a loved one, others hope to remember them as they were. Both situations are understandable, as people find different ways of coping with the stress that accompanies an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. For the benefit of both, I set out to create a product that can help families maximize the time they spend with a loved one to assure that visits are filled with positive interaction and fun, thus eliminating common feelings of guilt and sadness.
The Joy Filled Visits Kit, completed in 2015, is filled with tools I found most helpful in my career, and includes an easy-to-read manual. The kit helps families create a simple plan for each visit to keep their loved one engaged in the life of the family for as long as possible. At the encouragement of a librarian, I reformatted the kit into book form to give easier, more affordable access to the same helpful information to people all around the globe.
Using the book as a guide, Joy Filled Visits also offers a 4-session class for caregivers – walking participants through a review of Alzheimer’s, the symptoms, the challenges those symptoms can create for engagement, and tips for overcoming those challenges.
Here are reviews from a few participants:
“The Joy Filled Visits program gives an encouraging, fresh approach filled with ideas to interact with your loved one in a fun, personal way.”
“Having a new expectation and new set of tools to communicate with, has [given us] … much happier days.”
“I took care of my mom for years and felt very lost as to how to help her. After taking Julie’s classes, I feel I am better able to help her; and if she is agitated, I am able to defuse the situation and give her a happier time.”
About the Author
Julie Bigham, NHCT, began her career as an activity professional in 1993. In 2016 she dedicated herself full-time to Joy Filled Visits, LLC, providing support and motivation for caregivers through training, consultation, and public speaking. She hosts the Joy Filled Visits Memory Café in Matthews, NC, and provides additional support through a free monthly newsletter. She is also a Nursing Home Certified Trainer for Second Wind Dreams®/Virtual Dementia Tour’s NC Grant project.
Connect with Julie Bigham:
Facebook: Joy Filled Visits, LLC
Twitter: Joy Filled Visits @julsbigham
Amazon: Creating Joy Filled Visits in the Midst of Alzheimer’s
For more vetted books and resources about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore. Reposted with permission form AlzAuthors.