Every year, around this time, my phone begins to ring incessantly. People are inquiring about what their church groups, non-profit organizations and school clubs can do for the dementia residents “over the holidays.” It seems everyone wants to involved with performing “good deeds” from Halloween until a few days before Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and value volunteers who willingly come in to the facility, sharing of their time, effort and energy. What I don’t understand is, why does it have to be limited to “over the holidays” ? Not only is this true of volunteers and organizations, but also of relatives!
Last year, a gentleman walked into my office, identified himself as Mr. Wakeman’s son. He asked if I could show him to his father. I walked him over to where his father was seated with two other male residents. I pointed to the table, and turned back to my office, leaving him to visit privately with his dad.
“Wait”, the son said, “which one is my dad”?
Perplexed as to how a person could not identify their own father, I asked the son when the last time he had seen his dad, thinking maybe he lived abroad and could not recognize his father due to the time lapse.
“I was here last Christmas,” he said as he paused before he continued. “I just can’t come see him, I hate hospitals and nursing homes. They give me the creeps. But I come every Christmas.”
It is not my job to pass judgement on anyone. But c’mon. Really ? I know that many people despise health care facilities, but is that an excuse to not visit someone that you love? So your annual Christmas visit does what exactly? It provides you with a sense of relief from the guilt you should feel. Okay, so I am passing judgement.
All I am trying to say is, dementia patients need human interaction more frequently than just ” over the holidays”. Again, I appreciate those who do make their annual appearances. I love the churches who pile in the front door, offering to “carol” and “visit with the people”. I love the Brownie Troops, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Key Clubs and Honor Society students for coming every year. I even love seeing the son who has to ask “which one is my dad.” I love them all simply because the residents under my care do not realize the visits are only annually. They live in the moment, and during the annual visit, the moment is all that matters.