The strangest thing happened yesterday and the thought of it stays with me today. I visit frequently and regularly with a dear relative who suffers from dementia. The kind of dementia doesn’t matter, it all translates to the same thing. Inability to communicate, to understand, to know.
I read once that someone asked an old man why he went to see his wife in the nursing home every day when she suffered from such severe dementia that she did not know him. He replied that yes she did not know who he was, but he knew who she was. I think of that so often.
Anyway, I am pretty much the only person who visits this dear soul and I do it because she is family, we have a long history and because I love her greatly. Her degree of dementia varies from day to day. Sometimes she knows who I am, most times she just knows I am a nice lady who visits her often. Sometimes she knows, and announces to everyone that I am her great great great…but cannot remember what.
I used to visit her in the mornings until it was time for her lunch but then the Home would call me in the evenings because that is when her agitation grew worse (It’s called Sundowners) and they would ask me to calm her if I could. So now I visit from about 3 pm to 5 pm and this seems to keep her grounded and most times content.
Our routine each visit is pretty much the same. Big hello and hugs and then I take her to a common area, make her a cup of tea exactly the way she likes it (the water must come to a rolling boil) and we look through magazines. Sometimes there are groupings of words that make sense and sometimes for a short while she is pretty accurate to somethings. Once she looked through a magazine and saw an article on MS and commented on it. I always put a few magazines out and when she finishes one she picks up another. She ended up picking up the same magazine she had just put down. I did not say anything and continued to peruse my own book, always keeping an eye on her.
As she flipped through the pages she said, ‘There must be a lot of MS about because here is another article about it.’ I only said, ‘Really?’
But that is not what I wanted to tell you. I always listen to every word she says even when they seem to make no sense. It seems the respectful thing to do.
After tea I take her to her room and help her to lie down to stretch out her back (other wise she is in her wheelchair all day) and then I read her Bible to her until it is time for her evening meal. She has read her Bible every day since she was a child but can no longer hold the book or read the print.
I always sit at the foot of her bed as I read. I stopped for a moment and she started to talk. Trying to tell me something but things like, ‘ I am a a a a airplane,’ would come out instead. And still I listened and suddenly, quietly, the strangest words were coming out of her mouth, ‘We have talked about it you know, the kindness. You coming here to be with me so much. Your kindness to me. Your kindness does not go unnoticed you know.’
She raised her hand and placed in over her heart, ‘I feel your kindness.’
She looked at me, very aware in the moment, and all I could say was, ‘I come because I love you.’
She raised her hand pointing up and said, ‘Do not love me, Love Him ‘In the time it takes to breathe out it was over and she began rambling on about a myriad of things none of which made any sense.
And I was touched.