Life in Memory Care

Assisted living is a whole new world, my friends.

Where Mom lives now, the residents are in different stages of their various dementias (“I think a lot of these people have Alzheimer’s,” she whispered to me one day, without irony). On one end of the spectrum are those who move around on their own, speak clearly and cogently, socialize well and participate in the activities. If they could remember things, they wouldn’t be here. On the other, there are a couple of people who never speak at all, or who need to be wheeled around from one part of their day to the next. Most residents fall somewhere in the middle.

I am there several times a week, and each visit brings something poignant, or hilarious, or lovely, or sad.

It makes me happy to see Mom making friends with some of her housemates, behaving less frostily toward others, and learning to ignore the one poisonously negative lady who lives to ruin everybody else’s day (that’d be Vilma, whose superpower is to leave you feeling bad for hours after a single interaction).

Mom hangs out with Ruthie and Barb, two lovely people whose short term memories are totally shot, but who are so nice and otherwise good company that it makes me sad they can’t remember the beginnings of our lunchtime conversations. On the up side, I don’t have to worry about repeating myself.

The other night Mom called me, quite upset. “Something really bad has happened here,” she said, “and we are all a bit shaken.” Prone to dark drama, I thought immediately that maybe someone had been injured, or had some kind of violent outburst. What could have shaken everybody? “Ruthie’s room was ransacked, and her purse was taken!” Oh dear. I suggested that maybe Ruth had been looking for something in her room, then come out for a meal and forgotten how she’d left things, returning to find them in upsetting disarray. We agreed that was a more likely explanation, and I urged Mom to ask one of the staff, if she felt at all frightened or uneasy about it. The next day, Ruthie was fine, not having been ransacked or robbed. All is well. But it made me realize how quickly fear can spread around in a group of people who feel vulnerable and talk a lot, but don’t reason very well.

 

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