I visited an elderly client yesterday with advance dementia. He had come back from the dentist and had a tooth extracted. There was still blood on his lips.
I kissed his forehead although immediately by his gaze I could tell he didn’t recognize me.
“How are you feeling after your dentist appointment?” I asked while holding his hand. I had knelt to his eye level.
“I haven’t gone to the dentist.” He answered confused.
“Oh, darling! My bad. I thought you went out today.” I smiled.
“I did,” he said. “I went on a drive through the mountains. (He paused)…with you!”
I smiled and hugged him.
We haven’t gone out on a drive in months because he has not been well. But at that moment he remembered me just a little bit. I don’t correct them when they share. I go with the flow and we return to the moment again.
I sat with him until he felt an ache in his mouth and asked if I would come back another day. I hugged and kissed him. I told him that I would.
“But you promise to come see me again, right?!” He asked like a little boy.
“I will, darling.”
I had to go to the facility’s restroom and let the heartache come out. I sat in there and cried. He has declined so much. And to witness his confusion is usually not this drastic. It’s life. It’s his life. And he’s pretty much alone except for the staff and me. He has me and will continue to have me for however long he needs a friendly smile.
I have learned so much working with dementia clients. I have learned to be mindful and present. I have learned to go with the flow. I have learned to embrace the moments of joy and laughter because they do disappear quickly. I have learned so much from each one of my elderly folks. I have heard stories of love, loss and regrets. I’ve been present when they return to another era and I get to be transported there through their words and actions. Sometimes it’s been like being inside of a time machine. Because…whenever they go back in time they are right there. And I can ask about smells, colors, music and feel their hallucinations as strongly as them. We get to feel the moments together.
They are aha moments. For both of us.
My life has been enriched by these powerful moments. I’ve been truly blessed by the connections that will forever be a part of my own stories.
Take advantage of your mental health today. Right now. Feel the blessings for being here. Tomorrow is not promised. I love you.