She’s still here — A late stage dementia story

Posted on August 1, 2017

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One of my favourite clients, Mary, is now in the later stages of dementia. She spends most of her time asleep. She barely says a few words, if we’re lucky. She used to respond to touch very well, but over the last few months, that has disappeared. It takes longer and longer to reach her.

This afternoon, I saw her at lunch. She was sleeping. But she was doing a funny thing with her mouth, so I felt it might be possible to reach her. I have learned this from watching her sleep and trying to get her to interact by saying her name and gently massaging her hand innumerable times. Dementia truly has made me a mood detective.

I called out per usual, “Hi, Mary!” No response. I repeated my greetings may be 5–6 times and then she opened her eyes. I lowered my voice, went closer and knelt down, “Hi Mary,” I whispered. “Hiii,” she said cheerily. I was so encouraged. I asked, “How are you today?” She looked at me, but did not respond. So I changed my question. “Are you doing okay?” “Yes,” she said surely. “Are you having a good day?” “Yes,” she said yet again. “Do you know I love you?” “Yes,” she parroted. And “Yes” again, when I said, “Do you know I miss you?”

I felt like she was just saying yes aimlessly. I know that social etiquette and some automatic responses are preserved for a longer period of time. I was sad. But I continued. I said, “Do you miss me?” “Nooooooooooo,” she said quite nonchalantly.

IMG_20170731_211521_513The program workers and I burst into a hearty laughter and she went back to sleep almost immediately. Rejection has never felt so sweet to me before. There she was — the Mary that we all knew. Sassy. Present. Alive.

People living with dementia teach me so much each day. They teach me to keep trying. They encourage me to work hard. And they reward me with their words, hugs and smiles.

Can’t wait to be rejected by Mary again next week!

If you’re interested in reading the other post I had written about Mary, please click here: When words fail…

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Posted in: Relationships