When I was 7 years old my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As a 7 year old I wasn't quite sure what that meant, until the day she didn't recognize who I was and how I fit into her life. Angry that this disease seemed to take away the grandma I knew and loved, I started to see our time together as opportunities that I could help bring the spark, that defined who she always was come back to life; even if it was only just for a short time.
I tried a variety of different activities with her, but what made her happiest and the most herself was when I played the piano. When I played oldies, she sang Frank Sinatra and started talking about the times when she was a teenager and how she “caught” and flirted with my grandfather. Even when I played a new song that I had just learned, she started to sing, dance, laugh, and just talk about what life was like when she was growing up. When I played piano she was no longer consumed by the confusion this disease had imposed upon her; she was just simply her truest self, and that to me was real magic.
Discovering activies that actively engaged people in a meaningful way, became one of my life goals. As a child, I rarely had a babysitter. If I wasn’t at school I was most likely at my mom’s job. My mom who is a physical therapist was working with a variety of different clients with an array of diagnoses. Many clients that I encountered had an acquired brain injury. Though each acquired brain injury was different from one another and not exactly the same as my grandmother’s, I wanted to help these individuals be who they truly were as much as possible. Helping people reveal themselves through activities that brought them joy, meaning, and passion instead of being defined by a diagnosis, guided my mission throughout the rest of my life.
In 2017 I had the privilege to design and implement a variety of meaningful group programs, for individuals in the community with acquired brain injury through Supportive Living. Supportive Living is a non-profit organization that enhances the quality of life for brain injury survivors, by providing health and wellness groups and affordable housing for this population. Wellness groups at Supportive Living range from expressive arts to fitness and make a positive impact on these individuals socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Throughout my own life experiences as well as being an occupational therapy practitioner, I have experienced the value of providing people with acquired brain injury opportunities that not only positively impact their health and wellness, but allow them to express who they are and always have been. Please donate today and run with us on November 4, 2018 https://battlegreenrunfoundation.org, so Supportive Living can expand upon their health and wellness programs for people living with acquired brain injury in the community, and help these individuals live their life to the fullest.