Going back to the nursing home these last few days has been eye opening in a lot of ways. I knew I adored the residents, but I didn't quite know what my impact on them was. The thing with Alzheimer's and dementia is that, for the most part, the person is still there. They just can't remember. They've lost bits and pieces, and over time those small parts become chunks and entire memories. So, I wasn't surprised, or hurt in even the smallest bit, when those who I used to have long conversations with didn't know me this week.
They may not know me, but I know them. And I can tell their stories for them and remember. And I've found that sometimes, when I talk with them about what I know about their lives, they look at me differently and there's a spark of memory. Whether it's a memory of me or a memory of their past doesn't really matter. Because, for that moment, they have another piece of the puzzle. That's the good stuff.
Of course, there are also those who do remember and beg me every single time they see me to come back to work there. And I would. For them. Because while I may bring them joy, they give it back to me a hundred times over. It's an honor to be loved by them.
There are those crazy, poignant, funny moments too...
Mr. P: "Well, hello there! I saw you were giving out kisses, did you happen to save one for me?"
Me: "Of course, but what will your wife say?"
Mr. P...with a wink: "I won't tell if you won't!"
Mrs. D: "So, are you coming back to work now? We need you, you know."
Me: "No, I'm so sorry. But I will keep coming back to visit!"
Mrs. D: "Well, you'd better not come visit me and get too close to my closet."
Me: "And why is that?"
Mrs. D: "Because if you do I'm going to stuff you in it so you'll have to stay."
(Keep in mind this woman weighs about 80 lbs soaking wet and is about 4'5".)
Mrs. H: "Do I know you?"
Me: "Oh yes, I used to help take care of you and we'd talk for a long time every night."
Mrs. H: "I'm sorry I don't remember you, you look like someone I'd like to talk with."
Mr. T: "Well, hot diggety dog! Look at you, pretty girl! Want to go get married?"
Me: "I think my husband might be a little upset if we did that."
Mr. T: "Husband-schmusband! You should have just waited to marry me!"
Laughter keeps them going. Love keeps them going. Connections to others keep them going. Somethings in life never change.