Alzheimer's is the kind of disease that can have the patient cast out of society but this act of kindness made sure she was never an outcast.
Living with Alzheimer's can be devastating. Watching those you love and care for slip away because the disease causes fragments of your memory to fade and slip away, can make you feel helpless and lost. Not to mention, it can affect how you work and live. And, this goes without saying, it can be extremely disorienting and difficult for the person suffering from memory loss to deal with. Everything can often feel unfamiliar, and the unpredictability of it can be scary, terrifying even. But one aging old woman suffering from Alzheimer's found comfort in the familiarity of a job she was trained for, not once or twice, but multiple times over. All thanks to the thoughtful and understanding staff of supermarket chain Sainsbury, and MetroUK elaborates.
Doron Salomon's mother had been suffering from Alzheimer's for years. Normally, when a business finds out that their employee has a problem that can affect their productivity, they are let go. Not to mention, it becomes far more difficult for them to find another job. But the supermarket chain Mrs. Salomon worked at continued keeping her on their payroll for an extra 5 years. According to her son, that made an enormous impact on how she was able to keep going even as the disease worsened. After all, it was a way for her to feel "normal" again.
However, there is something that is even more heart-warming than Sainsbury keeping her employed. Given the nature of the medical condition and how it affects your memory, the supermarket she worked at went above and beyond when they offered the 61-year-old mother and patient regular retraining and support to make sure that she could continue coming in to work like everyone else, and have a routine to stick to.
Doron Salomon tweeted on 4th March, 2018 and shared his mother's journey with the disease:
Wouldn't usually do something like this but there is a lot of good out there. A thread of thanks to @sainsburys...— Doron Salomon (@DoronSalomon) March 4, 2018
My mum has Alzheimer's. It first started to affect her in her early 50s (around 10 years ago) but it's a disease that is hard to be clinically diagnosed with whilst it's in its early stages (could be a thread in itself). She was eventually diagnosed in late 2013.— Doron Salomon (@DoronSalomon) March 4, 2018
When my mum first began to show signs of the disease she was working as a bookkeeper. Formerly a very organised person who was good with numbers it became obvious quite quickly she could no longer do her job effectively.— Doron Salomon (@DoronSalomon) March 4, 2018
Whilst still perfectly able to contribute in a lesser skilled job, in mid-2012 she applied for and was offered a job at a Sainsbury's as part of their in-store 'picker' team, putting together people's online orders for delivery.— Doron Salomon (@DoronSalomon) March 4, 2018
Medically, she was fine even if staff may have quickly realised something was up. Since being diagnosed late in 2013 Sainsbury's were made aware of every medical update and have been outstanding ever since.— Doron Salomon (@DoronSalomon) March 4, 2018
Salomon spoke to BuzzFeed News and said that she had been given "a real sense of purpose. It normalized her. A lot of her friends have jobs and go to work and the fact she was doing something similar made her feel like a normal person."
Continuing, he said, “One of the things with Alzheimer’s is that you lose your social skills quite quickly and you can’t join in conversations, but when it comes to her job she could talk at length about it.” For context, Salomon explained, "Sainsbury's have seen my mum deteriorate to the point that every day for the last year or so she has gone into the store confused, as if she'd never been there before. They have always stood by her, going above and beyond to make sure she's happy and feeling valued."
He mentioned that,
A few of the things Sainsbury's have done: offered regular retraining; changed her hours; had regular welfare meetings with her and my dad; ensured her colleagues were aware of her condition so they were able to help her; and even...— Doron Salomon (@DoronSalomon) March 4, 2018
"... created a role that didn't exist so that there was something in-store she could do despite the fact her job title has never changed from 'picker'. Most recently this has involved giving her the task of cleaning the tote boxes (something staff already did as part of their job)," he explained.
He also said, "To my mum, cleaning the tote boxes became the most important job in the world. If she didn't do it the store would fall apart. The sense of self-worth and pride has undeniably helped with aspects of her Alzheimer's, such as giving her something to talk about in social situations."
In the conversation with BuzzFeed News, the son added, “It sounds daft but the roles she was given were very basic, particularly the most recent one – but to her they became the most important things that anyone could do,” Salomon said.
Then in October 2017, things hit a rocky patch when a health assessment of Mrs. Salomon stated that the disease had advanced too much. At this point, she was basically unemployable. With fear hanging over their heads and a heavy heart, the Salomons believed that she would not be able to work anymore. Salomon stated that "Sainsbury's saw the report and we assumed it was the end of the line."
A valid worry, yes, but kindness is a strong force and what he said next will ease your concern. "It wasn't. They persevered and stuck by her once again. Nearly 6 months later, yesterday was her last day. Even when they probably should have let her go they didn't until now. My mum was emotional but relieved. Senior management have acted with compassion and handled everything with class and dignity."
A spokesperson from Sainsbury said, “Doron’s [Salomon] mum was a much-loved colleague and an inspiration to all of us. We’d like to thank her for her years of service and wish her all the best for the future.”
“We just felt that over the years Sainsbury’s have really gone above and beyond what you’d expect, firstly from an employer and secondly from what is quite a big corporation,” Salomon said.