This morning, one of the resident’s daughter dropped off the monthly check, for her father’s stay at our dementia care facility. Every month, the conversation goes like this:
“Here is your check for the month. How is dad doing?”
“Your dad is doing well. Would you like me to walk you down to his room?”
” No, it really doesn’t matter. He doesn’t know me anyway. I just like to know he is doing ok. I’ll see you next month.”
That’s it. That’s the entire encounter with her every single month. She could MAIL the check in, or she could even put it in the drop box outside. But no, she would rather come inside and ask about her father. Why do you think that is?
Here is my theory. By coming inside, she is actually visible to the staff and to myself. She can not be labeled as “non-visiting, non-active family member”. She can use the sentence,” I was over at the place my dad is in the other day…”. She can also relieve the guilt she feels for not visiting, by asking me about her father. I am the “point of contact” for how her dad is. I wonder how she would respond, if I were to say. “He is dying.” Would she rush down the hall to his bedside, and hold his hand as he slipped into eternity? Would she do anything at all?
I don’t understand people. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that we, as adult children of aged, infirmed and memory impaired parents should show concern, love and compassion for them. Just because they may no longer recall names, who is to say that they do not know when someone reaches out to them? Kindness is felt by every creature on earth regardless of their capacity to understand or recognize the person. Take my German Shepard dog, Minnie, for example. She can not understand my spoken words of “Hi Sweetie, mama’s home!” Yet when she senses my presence, she is happy; tail wags incessantly and her jump hugs, uncontrollable. She’s a dog. Not a human. She is a dog. Yet, she knows, senses and appreciates my love, attention and affection. Studies show that the average dog understands sixteen basic words….most all of my dementia patients have a broader vocabulary…see my point here? It’s simple. I treat and respect my dog more so than some families of dementia patients do. There, I said it. I feel better.
Furthermore, maybe some of those family members also need to realize that even though “he doesn’t know you anymore”, does not mean YOU don’t know him. He is still your father. He is still the man who worked to put food on your table, clothes on your back and give you the ability to have the wonderful life you have now. So did your mother. They also brought you up to learn the Ten Commandments…..recall this one…..
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you”- Exodus 20:12