A Sunrise.

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I hope that I can convey this beautiful moment as well as I want to.

I worked on the floor the other day because we were short-handed. I was making my rounds and helping to get some of the residents up and ready for the day.

I knew that Ella* was going to be one of my more challenging wake-up calls.

Ella speaks often, but does not often make sense. She is quick to anger, and will respond to questions, but usually with answers that convey her inability to understand what she’s been asked. Ella does not typically make sense when she speaks, either. Her words are jumbled and nonsensical. She also does not like being woken up.

I approached Ella’s bed and crouched down beside it. “Hi, Ella, are you ready to get out of bed?” I said, softly.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, startled.

“I’m sorry!” I whispered quickly, starting to back away in case she wanted to hit me.

Instead, she turned towards me and opened her eyes. A sweet smile moved across her face and she reached her hand out to touch my forehead. “Oh, honey, why are you awake?” she asked, calmly. “Did something scare you?” She gently pushed my hair out of my eyes. “You’re so sweaty! Are you scared? Is that why you came to see me?”

I was taken aback. Because of her dementia and half sleep-state, I was, I believe, reliving a moment with her. The way she spoke to me, calm and caring, was the way you’d speak to your young son or daughter by your bedside. I think she believed, for a moment, that I was her daughter, waking up from a bad dream.

Ella kissed my head. “It will be okay, honey.” I fought back tears. I felt, in that moment, truly special to this woman.

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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