People ask us a lot, how we do what we do. “Isn’t it depressing?” they ask. And although, there is certainly a sad side to what we do, we are so often heartened by love showing up in the sweetest places. Whether it is the love between spouses, parents and children, or grandparents and grandchildren…….it is there.
We have had the great fortune to know some amazing couples, and there is a very special place in our hearts for a spouse slowly losing their loved one to dementia. From the decision to move the spouse into a residential setting, to sometimes not being recognized, the grief for a spouse is difficult. For one of our couples, the husband has the most generous heart of anyone we’ve ever met, however he is not able to show it how he used to. But, for the last two years on his wedding anniversary, we have made sure that he had flowers to give his wife. The pride he feels in giving them to her and showing his true loving spirit goes a pretty long way in this sometimes challenging work.
When a parent realizes that their son or daughter has come to visit, there is always pure joy for an instant. Even if that mom or dad has a bone to pick…….the fact that their child has come to visit is a joyful one. During our Christmas open house for families, I spent time with one of our larger families who was there to visit. One of our resident’s sons sat with her for hours, and she just looked at him with amazing love in her eyes. In preparing to write this and looking at old pictures of this woman and her deceased husband, I realized that looking at her son at this age was like looking at her husband whom she must miss so completely.
You can imagine that we have a fair amount of great grandchildren who visit. These are often newborns, and our residents may have difficulty even connecting with their grown up grandchildren. But in the moment, when a great grandma holds a baby for the first time, with his or her parents and grandparents sitting there…… four generations of love is palpable.
Through many of the sad stories that we are a part of, the most amazing characteristic is love. If you have a family member with dementia, remember that love is not lost, it may be just beneath the surface. Keep your eyes open, because it may show up when you are least expecting it.