While my parents were in Assisted Living together, I rarely met many of their neighbors. Now that it’s just my Mom, I am meeting many of the ladies who share the hallway. Three weeks ago, we rescued a neighbor who slipped from her walker on the way to the TV.
Yesterday, I stopped to answer the request of my Mom’s neighbor who was sitting in the hallway calling “Hello?” waiting for someone to answer. I have talked to this neighbor before and I know her name. I said “Hello” in return. She asked me “Where am I? Should I be doing something now?” My Mom’s neighbor has no memory and is constantly getting lost in the hallway. As we are chatting, she asks me how I know her. I explain that her apartment is next to my Mother’s. “How do you know it’s my apartment?” I tell her that her name is on the door. She asks me to show her and I walk her to the door of the apartment she’s been staying in for at least ten months. She turns to me and then shares that “Oh, I woke up in that room and had no idea where I was.” I smile and point out some of the pictures of her hoping that will help her recognize something in the apartment.
Of the three women in Assisted Living I know with dementia, they are very different. One has trouble finding words and putting her sentences together, but seems to know what she wants to do; a second has no idea where she’s living or what she should be doing, but asks very logical questions; and my Mom who seems to be between the other two women and usually writes up her grocery lists and makes her lunch everyday, but can’t remember how to figure out what day of the week it is even through we have tried to integrate that day clock I bought her almost two years ago into her problem-solving skill set.
The varying ways in which dementia impacts each victim still confounds me. I could be seeing three similar dementia’s in different stages, but I believe the words I was told when I began this journey several years ago. “When you have met one person with dementia, you have met one person with dementia.”
What I have learned is that no matter what stage or type of dementia they have, the ego inside demands to be recognized. I will always treat them as I would expect to be treated. Resolved.
Some simple things that have severed me well, some that took time to learn:
- Approach with a calm, friendly manner.
- Explain what you will do before you do it. “I’ will walk you to your room now.”
- Respect the individual and don’t treat them like small children (You can debate me on this, but these are my rules!)