Coming to Peace With Being One Piece in the Puzzle of Dementia

puzzle-of-dementiaAt an Alzheimer’s conference in Wisconsin where I spoke a few years ago, I talked about savoring happy memories as a strategy for self-care. I thought most people would recall an event or a feeling they had experienced before the disease had robbed their care receivers of their memories.

Alice, one of the attendees, pointed out that even as dementia advances it is possible to experience some very special moments.

She said, “During the first year-and-a-half my husband lived in a memory care unit, he never said my name. I worked as an activity director in another part of the facility. Every evening when I finished work, I would stop in to see him on my way home. Most of the time he didn’t act like he knew me, and there were many, many times when I wondered if my visits had any impact on him at all.”

Alice went on to say, “One evening all of the residents were sitting at their tables having supper, and my husband saw me come in. He stood up and announced very formally, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Queen.”

She said, “It’s something that I like to remember when I’m feeling sad. I know he doesn’t know my name. His life is like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces laying out. He knows I’m one of the pieces. He just doesn’t know where I fit into the picture. But that night, he remembered I was someone special, and that’s given me something to hold on to as the disease has progressed.”

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It robs memories, changes personalities and it breaks our hearts in a thousand different ways. When Alice’s husband showed her respect worthy of royalty, it helped her realize that even though he had lost most of his memories and a great number of his skills, he was still aware that she was someone important to him.

If you are caring for a loved one who has dementia, I hope you were able to share a lot of special moments before the disease took over. I also hope that once in a while you will have an experience like Alice’s, and that you will realize that regardless of what happens in the brain, it can be possible to stay connected through the heart. I know that being a piece in the puzzle of a loved one’s life, even if it’s a significant piece, isn’t much; but it might be enough to give you the emotional boost you need to get through a challenging day or a restless night.

To watch videos about communicating with a person who is living with dementia, visit: Caregiver Help Dementia Issues