The Ripple Effect

Mar 28, 2014
Tagged with: The Ripple Effect

Twice a week, I work with a woman who has Alzheimer’s.  Our session begins before either one of us ever steps one toe in the water.  When I see her wheeled into the aquatic center, I exit our office, and as I approach her I smile and wave.   I call her by name and tell her that I am so happy to see her, that the water is so warm, and that we are going to have a great time today.

I take her hand and we walk into the zero entry of the pool together.  We pass by children who are having classes in the pool. We talk about how good the water feels today.  We walk until we are about chest deep in the water. I take both of her hands and begin humming a song.  After a few minutes of walking, the client begins a hum of her own. I tell her how pretty she looks today, or how much I like her hair or lipstick. She smiles and thanks me.  We look out through the windows for the sun, rain or whatever we see outside. After a few minutes our humming usually reminds me of some song that I hope she knows and I start singing.

From the time we enter the pool. We are never still.  We are always walking around the pool. Often she asks me what something is that I know she has seen hundreds of times before and I ache for her.  I can’t imagine how frightening the world is when everything is a mystery. I answer the same questions several times within a 30 minute period some days. I point out other people in the pool and tell her that they are her friends as we pass them.

The song today is “Would you like to Swing on a Star, Carry Moon Beams Home in a Jar? She remembers some words and we smile as we sing, then we pass a grandmother and her grandson in the pool and she is singing the song with us.  The next person we pass suggests that “we would rather be a pig”.  We laugh and I try to make up a verse for the song about a pig.  Someone from the deep end of the pool suggests we would rather be a moose, and the song and aquatic exercise continue until our session for today is over.

The ripple effect is pretty amazing for all of us.  We have all exercised today, smiled, sang, whistled or hummed along the way.  The warm water has worked its magic on all of us today.

My client will go home telling me that I am wonderful, and I know that it has never been about “me”.  Her husband has noticed that after our sessions she talks on the trip home, speaking in a language that only she understands.  Her appetite is better after pool sessions, and she is not as apt to just sit and sleep.  He says that she sometimes whistles in the afternoon or joins him in their favorite evening song, “Let me Call You Sweetheart.” It is my honor to share these experiences. – Written by Shelia Cook

What experiences do you have with people with Alzheimers?


Author: Elizabeth Vander Kamp

  • bobl07

    How wonderful that you are able to make a difference in many lives, not to mention the one listed in this piece. Keep up the great work.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    I wish I could take credit for this insightful and beautiful post, but alas I cannot! My colleague and friend, Sheila Cook, of Lakeshore Foundation wrote this about one of her clients.

  • T. Wiley

    What a poignant article. My mom passed away after struggling with Alzheimer’s, and now her sister is following this same path. There are not enough people like Sheila Cook to make this difficult journey a bit less stressful – not only for the patient but the family as well. What a wonderful, giving, caring individual.

  • bobl07

    Yes, she is. How fortunate for us who know her and work with her. Thank you for your comments. I know this will make her day.