Meet Dianne and Ialeen
Dianne moved in with her mom Ialeen (pron. “Ay-leen”) about a year ago and is now her primary caregiver. Dianne’s father was the full-time caregiver, but unfortunately passed away in February 2019. Since then, Dianne has retired and cares for her mother 24/7.
When we picked up the phone for a conversation Dianne had already spent about two months in isolation with Ialeen.
“The first time we heard from Club 36 was when Nisheil and Cole reached out. That was our lifeline. We were in shock and terrified, and it was so important to have that sense of connection. It felt comforting knowing these people we know and love were reaching out to us.”
Club 36 staff helped support Dianne in getting set up on Skype at first, and then on Zoom, two video calling applications. The staff ensured Dianne felt comfortable using them.
“Cole was at mission control trying to help all of us newbies navigate with our technology. But he had this lovely smile right through the whole process.”
And thankfully, Ialeen dove right into the virtual visits.
“She remembered everybody, seeing people on the screen. There were the people she recognized like Nasira and Maria.”
For Dianne it was both a highlight and a relief to see her mom engaging virtually and using technology. “She has awareness and can socialize, but speech is difficult for her.”
Dianne and Ialeen have immersed themselves in Club 36 opportunities over the past two months. They’ve enjoyed group Bingo sessions and multiple live music sessions, as well as a Mother’s Day tea.
“Mom can see everybody in their home, all the other participants. She’s clapping her hands and excited to see people.”
The Club interaction is reducing their sense of disconnect and isolation. Dianne describes what a Club 36 interaction looks like lately. “Her favorite thing is to point and get her fingers right close to people’s faces on the monitor. Her whole body is dancing when the music comes on and she has the biggest smile on her face.”
Continuing connection with Club 36 also gives Dianne something to talk to her mom about, even if her mom can’t always speak back to her in return. The activities provide topics of conversation to help fill the silence and gives them something to look forward to.
Dianne’s next request is a hope of recording the Club 36 sessions and replaying them. “Mom forgets, and the next day she doesn’t remember what happened. Being able to play the music and the songs again, I think she’d get a lot out of that.”
And she remains ever grateful for the benefits they’re receiving from the support of Club 36 throughout the pandemic. “From day one, my biggest concern was whether they would be able to keep it all going… and to come up with the solution of virtual programs was brilliant.”
In addition to Club, Dianne looks to engage her mom in other activities, too. They reminisce about previous things such as a photo booth event and smile and laugh together over the photos. They clip pictures and add them to a feature poster on their fridge. And they flip through magazines together. “Mom likes the good-looking men with beards, so if we see a photo she likes, it gets cut out and put on the poster,” she chuckles.
And Dianne finds emotional reinforcements through her virtual support group, too. That circle of friendships has become even more essential to her.
But the notion of not having the support of Club 36 at any future point is unfathomable to her.
“We need them! They’re vital to our loved ones, especially for people like me who have their person at home. It enriches our lives. If we didn’t have it, I don’t know what I would do. There’s truly no other connection for Mom. We’d be desperate.”
With the return of some part-time in-home support with their aide Miriam, Dianne observes Club 36 as providing an important bonding opportunity, too.
“My mom has been fairly clingy to me. She’s OK with Miriam but it’s just not the same as with the Club 36’ers. Club 36 is just magical. Honestly, there’s something truly magical about what the staff can do.”
On a handful of occasions, Miriam has been participating and joining in the Club 36 activities with Ialeen at home.
“Being able to keep up that same level of energy from people’s homes, and doing it virtually, has blown me away,” she says.