Show and Tell & People l/w Dementia

Posted on September 16, 2016


Yesterday at our group (for people living with Young Onset Dementias – under 65 – and their care partners) we did a round of show-and-tell. We had asked them to bring an object that meant something special to them. Each time one of them spoke, we learned something new about them. Each time they spoke, their eyes shone and the group cheered – all unprompted by volunteers/staff. We had 10 people living with dementia, 8 care partners, 1 volunteer and 2 staff.

(All names have been changed. * refers to person living with dementia; ** refers to a care partner and *** denotes person not present)

Bob* shared the painting of a train made by his friend, Asher***. Bob had framed the train. But the most touching part was the way he said, “Asher is just 7! Can you believe it? This is very good for his age. He is very talented. I think he will go far in life.” The picture was beautiful, as was this unabashed expression of love and adoration.

Bob’s wife, Bella** shared a picture of herself and her sister as children. She talked of having had an up-and-down relationship with her sister for many years, but how close they are today. Bella blows me away with her willingness to be open and vulnerable. Bob and she are our longest participating members, and two of the most vocal advocates for the Society and our program.

fahrenheit_451_1st_ed_coverJack* shared his favourite book – Farenheit 451 – a first edition. Jack is the quiet sort, and can appear disinterested or bored. But the way he talked about the book, I was compelled to order one for myself! He was bright and wide awake during show-and-tell. He cracked very funny jokes. His timing and sense of humour shone bright.

Lilly**, Jack’s wife, shared a beautiful blue pottery dish she’d bought on a family holiday in Portugal. She said it reminded her of the happy times – the love and laughter of her two sons and Jack, and the bonding that happened over that week.

Dolly* was having a tough day, so her sister, Molly** showed us a sculpture made by Dolly of her dog! It was beautiful. The group broke out in applause initiated by Bob*! Dolly always made beautifully sculpted Christmas ornaments as gifts, and one year she made a miniature of Molly’s kids! Dolly looked like she was basking in all the glory!

Tara* had brought with her a beautiful coral that she had picked up from the Caspian Sea on her many travels as an airhostess. She said she loved the different coloration on it. It was stunning. As we ooh’d and aah’d over it…she looked very proud.

Valencia* had brought with her a collection of shells that her 10-year old son and she had collected from a beach in Portugal this summer. Valencia has a hard time finishing her sentences. She flushed with pleasure as all of us instinctually went, awwwwww! 

Her sister, Jean** brought with her a miniature CN Tower. Her husband and she had picked it up as a souvenir on their 10th anniversary. They had gone to dinner at the 360° restaurant atop the Tower. They’ve now been together 21 years, but it reminds her of their first landmark anniversary.

Fiona* brought her condo AGM flyer. She lives alone and her memory has been failing her. Her family is now encouraging her to move to a care home so that she can be supported. Fiona has time and again said that the group makes her feel like if she just had some support, she could “do this”! She said that the condo is the first place she owned, and she loved it deeply. She is sad that she has to give it up.

Shanta* was a seamstress and we’ve only heard of her legendary tailoring skills before. Yesterday, she brought with her two dresses that she had made. They were both extraordinary. Very beautiful designs and reflected her Indian-Guyanese heritage. Her daughter, Lana** talked of how wonderful it was to have had all these dresses made by her mom when she was growing up. Shanta offered to let me try on the dress she had brought. She looked happy and proud!

Gabriella* brought some of her art work. She buys printed, but plain cards and colours them. She said that she has learned to keep herself active to keep herself healthy. Again, Gabriella lives alone. She is very concerned that she might decline, and works very hard to maintain her current level. Everyone said that the colouring made the cards looked printed. They really did!!

Mel* brought the first pair of shoes they had bought for their younger son. The son is now in his late 20s. Mel said it made him feel nostalgic and connected. I wish I could share with you the most adorable picture of Mel and his wife, Lydia holding that little shoe from our show-and-tell!

Lydia**, Mel’s wife, brought her wonderful gift of Chinese calligraphy. She showed with humility the intricate work she does on little objects. She sells these for a living, but offered to do it free on stones/shells for members of the group! Her generosity overwhelms me.

Initially, I was going to share this necklace that I love. But being in the presence of so much honesty and love, I was moved. I showed the “Gratitude Tree” that we made at the last session of the first ever Boomers Club we ran last year. All the leaves/words were what the participants – people with YOD and their care partners – came up with. This group has redeemed me of the ghosts of seeing my young, talented and loving mother wither away all those years ago. I wish I could run this group on a weekly basis. And who knows, we might soon.

I want to thank my dear friend and colleague, Romina, for being a tireless advocate for the disease and continuing to co-facilitate this program with me.


Posted in: Dementia