My weekly visits to the Convent are where I can usually count on having at least one of the highlights of my week. This Convent is where the retired sisters are living, and about eight months ago I started training the staff and creating a program for the sisters. There is one part of the home that is set aside for those who need a bit more attention due to their cognitive impairment. It is in here that my favorite little lady lives. I will call her Sister Martha. She is very witty, super sweet and full of compliments. She can also be the first to resist care if she is approached the wrong way. I think the meanest thing she ever said to a staff member was, “You bum!” Her heart is so sweet, you just want to hug her!
Like many people who suffer with Sister Martha’s condition, she is very forgetful and often can become sad, or afraid of the whereabouts and therefore the safety of her parents and brother, who have long since passed away. She can become suspicious of those who want to help her get ready for the day. The moment she hears the word “shower” she becomes defensive and will not get up off her chair or out of her bed. She loves to compliment the other sisters and the staff. She loves to read whatever is put in front of her. She loves to eat, and more than anything, she likes to laugh.
This week, as I walked into the living room and saw my sweet friend, I went over and kissed her on the forehead. She looked up at me and said, with a serious face and eyes glued to mine, “You really love me, don’t you?” “Of course I do!” was all I could say, as I sat down next to her and we held hands.
Sister Martha was having a bit of a rough morning. She thought that everyone was going to die. Where this thought came from we don’t know. She has many fears like this. I assured her that I would keep her safe, and sat with her for a short while. This led to some small talk, and then to big laughs about silly stuff. The staff had already put on her favorite DVD, an Irish singer who Sister Martha felt she knew so well because, according to her, he visited every day! When I returned an hour later, Sister Martha was singing along and was as happy as could be. The staff, like every other day, knew how to assure her they would keep her safe; they knew how to engage her in things that would take her mind off of her fears, because they knew her. They listen to what she says and therefore can provide more comforting responses.
We cannot always fix the issues that our loved ones with dementia are dealing with, but we can certainly love them and make sure they know that they are not alone. And with this as your aim, I am confident you will do more for your loved one than you can even imagine!