The staff are experts at interacting and comforting folks with dementia. When Marlene starts to cry because she "can't find the bus stop so I can go home", staff will gently reassure her that the bus doesn't come for another hour, and they will come to get her to make sure she doesn't miss the bus. Marlene smiles and says "thank you", and then joins the group at the table for cocoa and cookies.
When Jean cries out "Where is my son?", staff will reassure her by saying that he is at work, but will be by in an hour to visit her. Jean is satisfied with this response and asks to participate in a game of Bingo.
The staff are showing kindness by reassuring each resident. The fact that the short term memory is so impaired allows staff to answer with what I call a "love response". I am in awe of their creative and kind ways to make certain that no one feels alone, frightened or deserted.
When I visit Jim, I am fortunate to be a part of this fellowship. It is deeply comforting and heartening to see the love and caring that happens here.
Jim spends very little time in his room. I hear from staff and other family members that when I am not present, Jim enjoys the activities that are offered. He continues to engage in his counseling role, trying to reassure those who seem in distress. He sometimes talks to the staff as though they are his staff. This is reminiscent of when he was working in an administrative role and supervising a number of people. For example, the other day he approached a staff person and said "don't forget to talk to him about (something unintelligible). Staff person was great; she responded by saying, "don't worry; I'll make sure to do that."
I've had some folks say something along the lines of "this must be a very difficult holiday season for you." But you know, it actually is the best holiday season I have had in a few years! In holidays past, there was the stress of preparing food for ~ 20 - 25 people, as everyone gathered at our house for all the major holidays. The last few years were extremely stressful as Jim continued to decline. It was quite a balancing act trying to protect him and keep him stable, and at the same time entertain for so many people.
So instead, I've been a part of numerous holiday festivities at the NH. Baking cookies, Christmas carolers, Christmas parties, holiday sing-a-long, and visits from Santa. All with NO stress for me! And on Christmas day I will share a ham dinner with my sweetheart and the other guys at the table. There will be holiday cheer, another visit from Santa, and pleasant conversation.
However you celebrate this holiday season, I'm sending lots of good cheer your way. I'm so grateful for each one of you. Your support and kind words have made my walk with dementia a little easer, and for that I am thankful.