Friday, March 15, 2013

"Move Over George!"

I recall reading an article years ago about Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner's husband being stricken with Alzheimer's. The family had placed him in a care facility and while living there, he had found "another love." The article went on to read that this scenario with Alzheimer and Dementia patients was very common. While most Alzheimer patients lose cognitive abilities and experience mood changes, their need for relationships, remain. If there has been one thing consistent with mother since she has been living in the nursing home, it is that she longs for someone to love and care for. I have seen several of these "pursuits" come and go. I am usually informed of mother's "intended" by staff members, while visiting. I have even caught myself being especially polite to a few, as if I was meeting mother's new boyfriend for the first time and having a need to make a good impression. Today, I have come for a visit, and receive news that mother has a new beau. As I roll her down the hall to sit in the front room, I notice her wearing a round pin on her shirt that says "kiss me!" I wonder if every resident is wearing a pin like this, or has my mother earned the honor! As I wheel her into the sitting area, I notice a very tall man, with a not so becoming hat pulled down over his ears, coming near. Mother glances over and says, "come over here honey so I can hold your hand." I whisper to mother to be quiet, that she doesn't even know this man. She looks at me like I'm crazy and says "O yes, I do, I love him. It doesn't take me long until I'm on my feet and wheeling mother back down the hall again. One of the nurses is headed the same way and walks alongside us. The nurses and staff here at the home have become very familiar with mother and her needs. I feel so comfortable with them as they care for her. I begin to share what has just happened with the nurse, she smiles and tells me how mother brightens everybody's day at the home with her funny words and doings. She encouraged me to look at my mother in a different light; she's happy, living, and to try to embrace the joy that she receives from these little relationships. I must say, her words have stuck in my heart and mind. Why is it that I would want mother to roll around the halls all day of a place where she has not chosen to be, but has to be, and deprive her of having the one thing that can make her feel alive, love. When you think about it, I suppose it's like the songwriter said, "Love makes the world go round!" And you never of us could end up in a home with George Clooney some day!


  1. You can have George, I'll take Matthew McConaghey. The only problem I see is that there are 18 women for each 2 men, at least in Mom's facility. The women outlast the men.

  2. I have a patient who's husband who intelectually understands the dementia decline (he happens to be a physician), but he is clearly hurt that his wife of 50 + years no longer recognizes him, and refers to him as a nice man who let's her live with him. This post made me wonder if he would be open to the idea of "courting" his wife again.
    I have had to also had to reframe the help in the home as they are there to help him instead of her and they are personal assistants instead of home health aides.