On Saturday, after attending my friend’s father-in-law’s memorial service (which, btw, was very meaningful and a celebration of a life lived well)…I stopped by my dad’s facility. The plan was to swoop in and take him to get a haircut, then drop him at my brother’s so I could zip home in time for my son’s basketball game.
As soon as I walked onto Dad’s Special Neighborhood floor (code for lock down unit), my heart sunk. Lunch was just getting served, ever so slowly, and Dad sat at the far, far table. The last table to be served.
I knew I needed to just sit patiently while Dad ate…along with the rest of the residents of the dementia unit. Now, I don’t mean to make light of a sad situation…but watching twenty-five people with varying degrees of dementia eat…well, that is not an easy thing to do. If one has a tendency toward the squeamish, like I do, it is downright…unappetizing.
The staff was very patient and kind. They asked each resident if they wanted soup or salad. Most of them couldn’t make a decision of such import…which considerably slowed down the process, I noticed, glancing at my watch.
Then, in between the soup/salad and chicken/sandwich courses, a woman started screaming. She wasn’t being served fast enough, apparently. (I sort of agreed but at least I didn’t scream.) The woman seated next to her clucked her tongue and chided her as if scolding a toddler: “There are nicer ways to ask.”
Aside from the lady who kept falling asleep in between spoonfuls of soup, and the other lady who kept wandering to the table to hold my hand, and many other less appealing behaviors that I won’t even mention out of kindness for my readers…
…I did observe something that caught my heart. Most of the women had very expensive jewelry on–pearl necklaces and gold wedding rings.
It hit me that all of these residents were probablyy very well educated people, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who had lived full lives until Alzheimer’s claimed them.
Each resident had a story to tell, had lived through an interesting century, loved and is loved…yet they couldn’t tell their story anymore. Most of them couldn’t even feed themselves anymore.
Still, each person mattered.