I love the lucid moments dementia offers, a little gift in the midst of frustration and sadness. Yesterday my patient was crying, he was watching another resident wheel down the hallway to an outside door that was locked. The resident banged on the locked door. My patient looked up at me, “He can’t get out! I want out!” Tears of frustration for the loss of the simple freedom of going outdoors.
I asked the floor nurse if we could go outside, she led us to an enclosed courtyard. A white fence surrounded the small compound, a few late blooming flowers lined the walkway but the sky above us was enormous. My patient smiled as we settled into a shaded area. He looked up, a bank of clouds, remnants of last night storms, danced across the sky high and billowing.
“I love clouds!” he said. A simple statement of contentment.
In silence we watched absorbing the beauty of the sky. A dragonfly zipped by perhaps surveying the late summer blooms.
“Oh!” he said as he focused on its flight.
“Ah! A dragonfly!” I state.
A group of crows noisily arrive in the treetops, he startles. I reassure him, “It’s okay, it’s only the crows.” They are early, much to early in my estimation.
His wife arrives, his eyes brighten with recognition. She has brought him root beer and life is good again.
Communication takes on a whole new level with dementia. You must dig deep, look deeply into a person’s eyes, speak with your heart. There is a person inside their cacophony of thoughts, indeed a soul who is struggling to be understood. I always speak with my dementia patients as if they can fully understand me and I listen as if I fully understand.
As I say my goodbyes he looks at me and says, “I care for you so much!” Words so sweet my heart melts.
“Thank you, I care for you too.”
One must listen with the heart.