”Those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they’re all individuals and they’re all unique. And they just need to be interacted with on a human level.”
– Carey Mulligan
My family has just been introduced to the world of Alzheimer’s/dementia for the first time. My sweet grandmother – a mother of nine and grandmother and great-grandmother to so many that we have lost count – has forgotten who she is.
But we haven’t.
My sister gave birth to twin baby girls earlier this year. The babies were premature and were very close to not surviving. But after months of intensive care at the hospital and even more intensive, above-par care from their mommy, they were able to come home. This past weekend, they made their first trip to see their Great- “Maw-Maw” in her new home in a nursing care facility.
And, let me tell you – it was nothing short of magic.
Some of us in the family had almost forgotten what it felt like to see Maw-Maw truly happy. Surrounded by new faces in a new environment, anyone would be a little confused at first. But poor little Maw-Maw can’t seem to break out of the confusion that is plaguing her. Every few minutes she again asks where she is and why she is there. She has witnessed many family tragedies in her life, including the most recent loss of her husband, and can’t seem to remember any of them. Watching her face as she re-learns the family’s sad news over and over again has been very hard on our family, to say the least. As she hears, yet again, about the losses we’ve suffered for what seems to her to be the ‘first’ time, we too feel the sting all over again. Her inability to remember translates to our inability to forget. This sweet little lady who has always managed to see the bright side of things, now seems to have fallen into a darkness that none of the rest of us can understand. Sadly, this is the truth to Alzheimer’s.
Then, there are moments like this past weekend.
This weekend, the darkness cleared even if just for a few moments. As Maw-Maw took both of those beautiful twin miracles into her arms, her face lit up. And there before us was the infamous smile that we had all come to miss so much. For a few moments, she was yet again our mother. Our grandmother. And now, as evidenced by the love in her eyes as she stared down at the new additions to the family, our great-grandmother. She was back.
And it was beautiful.
I guess that’s the key to dealing with these situations. Yes, the family is suffering. Yes, we are going through a hard time and we feel like we’ve lost a loved one, even though she sits right there in front of us. And yes, most of the time, the circumstances are going to be sad ones. But there will be silver linings. There will. And those are the moments that you have to hold on to with all of your might. Take snapshots – literally and figuratively. Remember these moments and cherish the fact that the person you love is still there. They are still with you. And for a few brief, shining moments, they are still themselves. And those moments will be the ones that will serve to help heal you both.
So grateful for one more glimpse of Maw-Maw’s smile.