My neighbor, Miss D died last night. She had a stroke at home a few days earlier. Her home aide and nephew were with her. I am so grateful this did not happen to her when she was all alone two years ago living with dementia.
Life can really change in an instant. Mine changed the beginning of this year as my husband and I became caregivers for my 91 year-old mother-in-law also with dementia. We sublet our apartment and moved in with mom, to keep her in the home she knew, for as long as possible. This meant I would not see Miss D regularly as I did every week. Now the visits were only two days a month when we were back in the city on our days off when other family could care for mom. Miss D was our biggest supporter for the decision my husband and I made. She missed me not visiting and wished we could move mom into the city and live in our apartment. I told her when our allowed sublet is up in two years we will.
That’s so far away. You’ll forget about me.
Miss D is always with me. Her dementia was not as advanced as mom’s, but I learned to really care for people with dementia through my experience with Miss D – to have patience, go with the moment no matter where it leads, gain trust and show lots of love through touch.
I will never forget Miss D.
For those of you with a family member, friend or neighbor with dementia, I have an idea of continuity to share with you. It’s really simple, but it works.
About 6 months ago I was visiting my neighbor, Miss D at her secured location. I brought 2 Snickers bars and a roll of Life Savers – her favorite candy. She giggled with delight as I gave her one of the candy bars. I placed the other bar and candy roll under her pillow. I know Miss D hides her valuables under her pillow and she would find these gems after I left. A few weeks later I added a 3rd Snickers bar to give to her best friend Miss T, a resident on the dementia floor. I always make a point to give Miss T her candy bar with Miss D. I follow the same pattern on every visit.
Connections were growing with $4 worth of goodies each week. One day I shared with the man at the newsstand I was visiting Miss D as I bought the candy. He remembered her buying the newspaper from him every day until a year ago. Now he always asks how Miss D is doing and hopes she returns home soon. I in return tell Miss D the newsstand man says hello and she stays connected to her neighborhood. You may think your loved one with dementia doesn’t remember your visits or when you give them something – why bother. I believe they do remember with their hearts. Miss D hugs and kisses me each time I visit her before I give her the candy. Her friend, Miss T also hugs me and tells me in Spanish what a good friend I am to Miss D and I tell Miss T how much I appreciate her friendship with Miss D.
This goodwill happens by being consistent and showing up for our loved ones with dementia.
Being a weekly Snickers Fairy helps, too.