This is the fifth item from my list of things to never say to a person diagnosed with dementia.
The story that immediately pops to mind happened a little over a year ago. I hadn’t met very many individuals with dementia who had stopped speaking until my mom moved into a memory care community. While I had experienced periods with my parents when one of them would be quiet on a visit and they seemed unsure of what to say, they never stopped speaking until the last few days of their lives. So I had more direct experience with my last post on don’t assume they can’t understand you because they are silent.
I still smile when I remember my visits when Gwen would join us. She would only join us when we were sitting off to ourselves, and usually focused on a craft of some sort. She always had a relaxed way about her, but always seem to want to hide the things we were working with. She would subtly remove a paint brush, or a feather, and seemed to wait to see if anyone noticed. I was glad we used non-toxic paint when she decided to drink my cup of paint water on the table before I could stop her.She looked right in my eyes and grinned before I could get out a word. She never did want to join us in our activity, but every time she joined us, I felt like a little bit of my dad had arrived. He was always the jokester.
One day, when another resident came over to join us, Gwen stuck out her finger so that when the other resident sat down, she would get a poke to the rear. While the resident didn’t notice, Gwen burst out into giggles and I quickly joined her when I found the resident wasn’t harmed or offended (thankfully).
I never really thought about it at the time, but looking back realize how much I had learned about spending time with someone who has dementia. I was ready to accept and visit the person that was showing up to spend time with me that day. Although, I never had a conversation with Gwen, we sure did have a few laughs together. Enjoyed.