A Goodbye Party


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I avoid putting myself in these posts as much as possible, but this post will have to be an exception to the rule. 

I had my last day with Brookdale Senior Living and I am moving on to another state and a new company, where I’ll be working as a Memory Care Director. I’m really excited for this change, but I am already missing the staff and residents at my last community. The people there are really wonderful.

On my last day, Thursday, I had gathered up a group of residents to listen to a guitar player. As quickly as I was getting them into the common area, Resident Assistants were leading them out. “Hey! Where are they all going?” I asked one of the staff members. She paused, and then said, “They have to go get weights done!”

It wasn’t until I got a text from our nurse that I found out where everyone had really gone. “Come in here and help me move tables,” she texted. I opened the door to our “Pet Shop” room and the staff and many of the residents were there. 

“Surprise!” they yelled, and my eyes filled up with tears.

Joyce*, one of the residents, used to be a party planner in her spare time. I love watching her at social events, because she is right in her element. Even though her dementia is clearly progressing, her ability to navigate any social engagement is beyond reproach. 

“Oh, this is just wonderful,” she said. “Now where are you going to?” 

Unlike many of the residents, she understood why she was in that room. There was a party, and she understood that the party was for me.

I told Joyce about where I was going (without mentioning dementia care) and she smiled. “Well, that sounds great. I’m sure you will do very well there,” she said.

Joyce will help you plan any party or organize any event. When it was Christmastime, she decorated the community’s tree almost entirely by herself. When it was time for St. Patrick’s Day, she instructed the other residents how to set up the dining room.

One of the things I love about dementia care is this: seeing that, despite someone’s illness, he or she is still “in there.” That person is still the same person that you know and love. Although an individual’s true personality can be hard to see at times, or seems to change in an instant, who they once were is not gone—just hidden. 

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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