My friend Jack served our country as a Marine, and at more than 6 foot tall, he is not a small guy.
I first met Jack at the local adult daycare where I volunteer in San Diego, California. He was sitting by himself with his head between his hands. He looked bored stiff so I started talking to him.
He really had no interest in me until I mentioned sports – specifically football. Jack shared how he played football as a youth and how his son plays professionally.
When I left that day, I thought, “How can I get Jack to be more engaged?” I decided I would bring a football to daycare.
On my next visit, when I walked up to Jack, I thought he would get excited. He didn’t even seem to notice. I then handed the football to him; he still showed no interest.
I admit I was surprised. What strong Marine wouldn’t want to grab a football?
Next time, I left the ball at home. But I remembered how many of the participants’ eyes fixed on me when I carried the football around the room. So when I spotted an inflated, yellow balloon, I picked it up and started carrying it around the room. Again, many eyes followed me including Jack’s.
As I approached Jack, he reached out for the balloon. His whole spirit seemed to be lifted as he held the balloon. He didn’t do much more than hold it but it seemed to comfort him, and that’s what mattered.
Often we think we know what’s right for our loved one with Alzheimer’s but they are not the person they used to be. Their mental sharpness is declining, and they are becoming more childlike. Multifaceted things that used to entertain them need to be replaced with simpler options.
So now I include “balloon therapy” in my activities, with sweet, funny results, from people like mischievous Ed and naughty Mark…