A Decreasing Identity
Anyone who has ever dealt with a patient with Alzheimer’s or Dementia will understand the title of this post immediately. One of the hardest things we are faced with is when our visits to our loved ones result in our becoming less and less known to them. Who we are to them begins to change until you finally reach the point where the identity as we know it no longer exists.
When my grandmother first went into the nursing home, everything was fine in terms of her knowing who I was. On my first visits she thought she was in the hospital and they were checking her out because she had been sick. Other than her wanting to get out and go home, our discussions and conversations would be as they always had. However, as the visits went on little things began to change. I started to become other people to her and as I mentioned in a previous post, quickly learned to just “play along”.
The first time I arrived for a visit and she thought I was her brother it was a bit unnerving to say the least. However, when I went back and looked at pictures of him I understood why. Brother morphed into son where she began to think I was my Uncle, which still made sense as our younger pictures look very much alike. I soon understood that depending on the visit, her brain was in a different place in time and whomever she was seeing me as fit in that place where she was. It was easier to take because there were visits where she actually still knew me and would call me out by name. It was when that stopped that it became more difficult.
As I previously shared with you, I was the first grandchild and lived in the same city as my grandmother, so we spent an amazing amount of time together growing up. As my identity started to decrease with her, I dreaded the day when I would go and visit and my identity would be completely gone, at least on the outside. Unfortunately, that day came and it was one of the difficult parts of dealing with her Dementia that I experienced. The unfortunate thing for some Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients is that is the point where family decides that there is no reason to even visit any more because they don’t know you are there anyway, which obviously is a mistake. However, that was not our family.
When I would visit, although she may not have known me, all I had to do was look deep into her eyes and I knew somewhere inside I was still there. She may not have been able to verbally acknowledge my identity, but the heart never forgets and I believed that to be the case. We visited her continuously and was with her the morning she passed. Up until that last moment we were at peace because we knew we had done well.
Part of the reason for this story is not only to help those dealing with similar situations, but to remind you to love and hold those that you still have with you. Have you called your mom, dad, grandparent or family member lately? Have you told them you love them or hugged them recently? If not, do it. Take every opportunity to make the best of those fleeting moments while your identity is known and robust. Once it is gone you won’t have that opportunity again. Be the one with no regret because you took the opportunity to be there when you could.
Have a great weekend and remember to be the reason someone smiles.