LIFE IN MEMORY CARE
Within the Memory Care unit, life goes on. Maybe not as we know it or even as they knew it, but it is there. As we work with the residents, we know where they came from, the accomplishments they achieved, the people who made up their lives and they are filtered on, layer by layer, to the people they now are. It is regression and progression simultaneously.
They go through cycles – sometimes violent- sometimes sweet, caring, and kind. A lady I work with was a trailblazer for women on Wall Street and opened trade between Brazil and the U.S. She traveled to many parts of the world. The people from her life are devoted to her. They call a couple of times a week as they live 3 hours away. They take care of her needs even though they have medical challenges of their own and are taking care of their own parents. They worked for her and her husband for 30-40 years.
She is mostly a sweetheart. She may not know my name, but she recognizes me even though I might be her husband, am considered often a male, although I look nothing like one. She is trapped in her past childhood and marriage. A child of privilege and wealth, when she eats on her own, she takes “Debutant bites”, itsy-bitsy bites, the way she was taught when training for her “coming out”.
Last night we sat on her sofa, she leaned over and put her head on my shoulder as I rubbed her side, saying “I Love You”. Five minutes later I am toileting and underdressing her for bed. She snarls, “who are you. get away from me.” Then she stands up and has diarrhea all over her clean clothes and the floor. I get her cleaned up, bring her to her room, and she does it again. All in a day’s work. She can’t help it . . . doesn’t really know what is happening. It breaks my heart sometimes.
A wonderfully talented poet lives down the hall, an inventor the other way. Upstairs is a world-traveler writer, a professor of English and publisher of 30 books, a thoroughly obnoxious Broadway man . . . the list goes on. Many of those upstairs should be downstairs, their short term memories are so poor. There just isn’t enough room. Then there are the touching situations. One man feeds his wife, reads to her, cherishes her. A woman was a teacher in a one room schoolhouse.
There are so many wonderful people in Memory. Some have passed on and most times it breaks my heart. I hate this disease – either dementia or Alzheimer’s. It ruins the lives of so many gifted, helpful, generous people. But once in a while, it does an interesting trick . . . someone who was not very nice during their adult lives mellow, their edges fade. When you care for someone 24 hours a day, its a great thing.