Teen makes memories with Alzheimer’s patients
NICEVILLE Kyle Marocchini’s hands fly as he speaks, adding “pictures” to his story and catching the attention of his elderly audience.
“Chuck” initially listens to the 17 year old talk about moving to the area three years ago, but his eyes and attention asics running quickly wander as he watches the staff of Superior Residence bustle around the recreation room.
Few residents react as the 6 foot 2 teen walks into the recreation area. Some nap in their armchairs; others watch reruns on TV. Most simply sit, staring.
Marocchini smiles as he greets Ted, one of the residents, and cajoles him into helping with a project: stuffing garbage bags with newspapers as makeshift “sandbags” for an event.
As they begin their task, Ted stops and looks at some of the photos in the newspapers. He sees a photo of a car and turns to Marocchini.
“I wish I could go driving,” he says.
It sounds like a simple wish, but it’s actually a memory of Ted’s younger years as a driver in NASCAR.
Marocchini helps residents by becoming their friends. He learns about their past, chats about their day, and brings up both at following visits.
“Spreading out the recollection keeps their mind exercised and, for some residents, makes them happier because they feel like they’re starting to finally overcome the disease,” Marocchini says.
This works well with the patients who are not as affected by the disease. It becomes trickier for those who have more severe cases of Alzheimer’s.
Some of these patients have difficulty speaking, if they speak at all, so he forgoes the questions. Usually he either talks to them about his own life or plays games with them.
You can see how they feel, Kyle says. When they’re happy or interested in what he’s talking about, they try to look over or smile at him. The ones who can speak coherently might thank him for making them feel better.
“The most common sign I’ve seen is a sparkle in their eyes,” Kyle says. “They seem to light up. The dullness, the opacity, the inattentive asics running gaze are all blown away with a flash of recognition in their eyes.
“You know that at that moment they’ve, to some degree or anot asics running her, finally got the gist of your message.”
Marocchini is the most regular of the home’s high school volunteers, said Teresa Rodgers, life enrichment director at Niceville’s Superior Residence.
At first, she didn’t think he’d take to it. Boys tend to be standoffish and quiet, but it clicked for Marocchini. He’s sincere and passionate about what he does, Rodgers said.
“He takes a piece of his time and gives it to us,” Rodgers said.
Marocchininever hadfirst hand experience with Alzheimer’s until he came to Superior Residence. The aspiring doctor or engineer hopes to continue learning methods to help those with Alzheimer’s.
His work at Superior Residence isn’t a job, Marocchini said; he’s having way too much fun.
It’s a way for him to give back to the community and see tangible results of his service.
“It’s great to see (the residents) smile and laugh,” Marocchini says.
His visits mean a lot not only to the residents but also to him.
“To know that you, someone who has little to no background with Alzheimer’s, can walk right into a facility and give them comfort, happiness, and the ability to fill a gap asics running in their own life is something I find truly miraculous,” Marocchini says.