“Momma has very little recall with short term memory, so a card or a phone call would be enough. We all just do the best we can.” Those were my cousin’s words for me as I was trying to decide about attending her mother’s 95th B-day celebration (out of state) set for this weekend. I believe she had resigned herself to ‘the way things are.’
It is true, with moderate dementia, my aunt may not remember that I came to see her within a few hours after I leave. Though she may not remember I was there, I will know that I was a part of her special day. And her caregivers, my cousins, will feel the peace and support of having had family together, even if only for a few hours.
Thinking back to that period when my own mom was living in a nursing home miles from her loved ones and remembering a few of those slow, quiet Saturdays we used to spend together, I used to debate whether to call a few family members and say hi, or should just not bother them. At those times I felt isolated and a bit unloved. I wonder if our family thought that because she had dementia, that my mom had no feelings.
When family were able to make the drive to visit, I could sense her pleasure and delight as we sat quietly together. As her disease progressed, she lost the ability to speak. But even so, when her family showed up, there was a peace and contentment that filled the air for both of us.
What does one get a 95-year-old for her birthday? — For my Aunt G I settled on an inexpensive necklace she can wear around her neck anytime with no fuss.
Whenever I call my cousin, as we end the phone visit, she usually asks, “Would you like to speak with Momma?” And I always do. My aunt has been slipping a bit with her memory for quite some time, but she can always keep up the conversation for a few moments if I do my part, asking easy questions about is she feeling well and maybe the weather. She is still able to keep up ‘appearances’.
As many of us caregivers know, whether it be through a phone call, a note or perhaps a visit, the deep joy of connection in the moment can mean much to a loved one and their caregivers.