The first night at Memory Care at St. Paul’s… my “initiation” with the residents of the floor called “Memory Care”. The floor where dementia and Alzheimer’s had put an end to life as they knew it for those who lived on this floor; and brought them here, living with a loss they couldn’t define or remember, but a loss they had moments of sorrow over, then turning from that pain and reliving a time they could remember over and over again, taking anyone who would listen to them on that memory’s journey with them.
I walked into a room of people, probably about a dozen seated around tables in wheelchairs, others in chairs with their trusty walkers or canes nearby. The staff and caretakers were seated at various tables with them, engaging them in conversation if possible, helping them with the last remnants of dinner, making sure they were comfortable. The staff had been told Richard and I would be visiting every week at this time, just getting to know the residents, just “being with them”…Richard sat down with a few residents at a table…and I walked over to a woman who was seated, who had a radiant, welcoming smile. She seemed happy to have me chat with her for awhile, and I noticed she was holding a broach with two charms with children’s pictures (they looked to be about 5 and 8 years old, probably from the 50’s) inside the charms… she was handling the broach and charms looking at them with concern. I asked her, “Are these pictures of family?” She, “Oh, yes, my children.” I commented on the other jewelry she had on, and complimented her on how nice she looked. She kept rolling the broach over with her fingers…I asked, “Would you like some help in pinning this onto your blouse?” She asked if I would, please. After this was pinned on her blouse, she lost all interest in it, until another resident came by and asked who the children were on the pin? She tried to remember their names, but it was clearly disturbing her that she couldn’t recall. She then ignored the question, turned to me, and called my attention to the window (a large picture window on the 3rd story of the building)…she looked out and with that sparkling smile said, ” You know, I often look out this window at the beautiful day we are having. I see the bubbles in the sky (clouds) and the green sparkly things that wave in front of the window (palm fronds), and I am filled with wonder. That is what wonder is…seeing everything that is wonderful, isn’t it?”