Monday, August 6, 2012

"She's Real Happy With Me"

Last night, at our family dinner, friendship seemed to be the theme of all conversations with mom. She had gone to church earlier in the day, which she had missed the past two weeks in a row (due to her "severe pains and fatigue") and was on cloud 9. Mom was smiling and chatting a mile a minute all evening long about the many people who talked to her at church throughout the day.

As she enthusiastically recalled her visits with us, she kept playing with her hair, pulling on the ends and tucking it behind her ears. She took occassional breaks from fidgeting with her hair to rub her hands together while she spoke; she does this frequently when she talks. Maybe it's a nervous habit.

She always recounts her visits with my mother-in-law at church.

"Ginger is always so good to me too. She's always real lovable and happy to see me too. She's happy with me too and she's always good to me too."

Then onto an encounter with another long time family friend,

"That one woman who we've known for many, many years...the one who looks so much like my sister...she was so happy to see me too. She's so good to me when she sees me too, she's real happy with me. And she was real happy when I sang her that song," she breaks into a quick song, "Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too...she was really happy and smiling when I sang her that song too."

"Sister Najarro too really loves me too. She was real happy to see me too. She's always so good to me too."

She talked about some other friends who complimented how nice she looked, or had other sweet words to say to her. She couldn't remember the names of some of them. But she was still beaming at the love that everyone had shown her throughout the day.

"I'm just glad that people still love me, even though I'm changing so much, but they're still real happy with me."

Sometimes, when dealing with a person with dementia, we might be apprehensive on approaching that person. We may think "they probably don't remember me anyway, so what is the point?" Maybe we don't know what to say, and as human nature would have it, we often times do not want to venture out of our comfort zone. Maybe we don't want them to feel uncomfortable by watching their struggle to remember who we are.

But I am here to say that we can still have a positive effect on those around us who suffer from this terrible disease. Maybe they don't remember us. Maybe it does feel awkward and maybe we don't know exactly the right thing to say. Even just a simple "hello" with a smile can mean the world to a person with dementia. They need to know that they are loved, and not forgotten. I truly believe that even if they cannot express this outwardly, deep down, inside this broken body, is that person that we all once knew and loved. That person deep inside needs to be remembered and loved.

My heart is full of deep gratitude and love for those of you out there who continue to show friendship and love to my mom. Know that your kind words and sweet smiles do make a difference, to my mom and to our family!


  1. Cassandra, I am so glad you posted this. You're so right about people not wanting to come out of their comfort zone. I do not have dementia, but when we lost our son, so many people did not even call, express condolences, because they did not know what to say. Who says that what a person needs is "the right thing to say." All a person needs, when they have dementia, or are struggling with other trials in their life, is to know people love and support them, no matter what. How do you do that? You show that person LOVE, even though you do not know what to do or say. Send them a note to let them know you're thinking about them, drop by a little plant, dinner, or whatever and just give them a hug. Too many times people want to give well-meaning advice. Unless you have been through the same problem, please skip the advice. It usually never comes out right, sounds trite, or comes off as a platitude. Again, often, the words unspoken are the loudest of all. Those unspoken words of love and support are what have the most meaning and are what will be remembered and cherished. Not some well-meant platitude or advice.

  2. Thank you Cassandra for that advice. I know of an older lady who has dementia so when I see her I also think that she doesn't remember me, and I don't want to embarrass her, so I just walk by her. I will now always smile and say hello to her. You are really educating all of us in this disease! Thank you again.

    1. Thanks Robin. If I can help anyone through our experiences, then it makes it all worth it! (Not the disease...but the sharing part of it ;) )