How one man changed my view on Alzheimer’s

I started my new role as an Administrator in July 2018 and during the first few weeks, a gentleman that sat across my office intrigued me.

Norman Beeson reminded me of my grandfather. He was the type of guy you just wanted to hug and get to know. I often saw him wandering the hallways, falling asleep during activities, sitting alone and not being engaged. Norman has Alzheimer’s and no family to come and visit him. Many would be quick to say this is what people with Alzheimer’s or dementia do.

I thought of all the residents like Norman Beeson I had the pleasure of working with over the years and how many times I saw someone like him sitting alone by a bird cage or wandering the halls. From that point forward, I made it a daily responsibility to help prove that there’s a lot of life left in those with Alzheimer’s and others with cognitive diseases.

I started off small to gain his trust by offering to help him up from the chair across my office or I’d give him a good morning greeting at breakfast with a big smile or goofy grin. If I came around a corner and saw him I’d offer him the trigger fingers or salute as Norman had served in the Navy and ask how he was doing.

Norm and Josh

Then one day he got up from that chair in the hallway across from my office, walked in, sat down, and asked how I was doing. I always keep a candy jar on my desk for staff to indulge in, so I offered Norman a sucker. We chatted and although it’s hard to understand him sometimes, a goofy grin can always get him going.

I was amazed to see this once quiet gentleman who had Alzheimer’s prove to me what I’ve known all along: there’s still a very active life available to those struggling with the disease.

From then on it just got better. Staff would take him for a walk or to meal times and as he approached my office he made sure to wave, salute or say hi. I spent an entire all-day staff in-service talking about the importance of resident engagement when I was supposed to be talking about our upcoming survey.

I’m proud to say staff in all departments are now engaging residents more and making a lasting impact on lives every day thanks to Norman Beeson. These days, Norman is busy painting, shaking dice at men’s club, looking at baseball cards, listening to music, decorating cookies and looking at the information boards outside my office with my candy jar in sight.

Lastly, we have an old bench that wraps around a tree out back in the courtyard and I thought, “I bet that bench could still have purpose.” The quiet gentleman who once wandered the hallways and didn’t seem capable of much helped me breathe life back into that old bench and to myself.

This bench is “Norm’s Bench.”

Dear Norman,
You’ve proved to me that people with Alzheimer’s still have a lot of life and living to do, as do we all. Like the old bench now full of life, you are too once again. You have been a benchmark on my life that I will never forget…

Your friend,
Josh Domeier 

Josh Domeier is an administrator at Colonial Manor in Lakefield, Minnesota. Norman’s guardian gave consent to share his story and show the importance of not forgetting those with Alzheimer’s. 

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