Brittany is my friend and neighbor, and I’ve been blessed to get to see her care for Susie. Susie is a widow in our community who suffers from mild dementia. Our church has banded together to find her dependable care takers so that she can remain in her home, with what’s familiar, with people she trusts for as long as she can. It’s a beautiful relationship, to see James 1:27 carried out in the most simple, joyful of ways. Brittany is more than Susie’s care taker, she’s her friend. Brittany does more than just her job, she cares for Susie as a friend, grandmother, mother, and it’s evident that joy lives in it.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of photographing their unique relationship. So many of you were interested in their story that I decided to interview Brittany in this blog post.
How do you know Susie?
I originally met Susie when I was 16 when I volunteered at a summer camp in 2014. At the time she worked in the kitchen and so I knew of her but had never sat down and talked to her much. Fast forward 4 years to 2018 where we now live in the same town and go to the same church. About 8 months ago, I was asked if I could work with Susie and be a her care taker for her. She suffers with dementia that’s not very severe but enough to where she needs help on a daily basis. She needed someone to take her to the grocery store.
There had been another girl working with her to begin with, but she was moving to Florida. aI was looking for a job that I could juggle with college during the day, so it was almost too perfect the timing of everything.
What is your favorite part of getting to be involved with Susie?
I have a lot of favorite things when it comes to working with Susie but I think I can narrow it down to two. One would be how much we both love music, we love listening to old music, you know the good classics but she also likes some new things I show her (she loves Ed Sheeran haha). Most days we just sing as loud as we can in the car and then laugh about how terrible of singers we are.
My second favorite thing is how innocent Susie can be, it’s almost child like. Her new lack of problem solving skills is kinda cute to me. I watched her for 7 whole minutes try and open her patio door because she was trying to find the handle that was on the opposite side, she just kept sliding her hand up the top and then down to the bottom. I eventually had to point her to the handle and even then she couldn’t find it so I just opened the door for her.
What are some of the most difficult parts of it?
The most difficult part with working with Susie is her irrational moments which is common with patients with dementia. When she wants something and can’t have it it’s very difficult to reason with her because she doesn’t know how to use common logic anymore, going back to the child like mind.
How would you want to encourage others who might be in a similar care taking situation?
My encouragement to others would be to keep loving them. Also to have patience, you’ll need patience and to remind yourself that it’s a mental illness, they don’t think incapable of thinking like we do so don’t get mad just be reminded of where they are and why they do the things they do.
What would you want to tell yourself as an encouragement in the beginning?
I would probably tell myself similar things as what I said before that you have to remember that this is another human being that needs love and patience and help.
How would you encourage other churches who want to care for widows well to do so?
I am thankful for my church and how intentional they are the serve our community and so that would be my encouragement for other church’s. There’s broken, hurting people all around and we need to be intentional to find them and to bring them in and serve them. It was really cool for me to see how the Lord brought me and Susie together because a few months before I met her I was studying the book of James. In chapter 1 he says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” And I remember stopping here and praying that the Lord would show me someone to serve in this way.
I am really thankful to work with Susie, the Lord really has blessed me with her, I feel like she’s my actually grandmother and I love her like she is. I know that working with dementia patients is usually very hard and while there are some hard days, I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of good days, definitely more good days that out weigh the bad. Susie is truly one of a kind and I now have hundreds of memories with her that I’ll never forget.
Anytime we go out to eat, she sees some guy that she thinks would be a perfect match for me, and while Susie thinks that she’s whispering to me but really the whole restaurant can hear her saying “I think that’s guys cute over there, see him with the blue shirt, he’d be good for you..” It’s usually either a high school or a middle aged man with a wedding ring on—there’s never an in-between of guys that are my actual age, haha.
Susie normally can’t remember eating breakfast, but somehow never fails to ask me if we can buy a lottery ticket that day. She’s obsessed with them, and her request is always followed with her saying “you know if we actually won this thing I would probably drop dead.” This happens almost everyday.