New Love.

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They sat, holding hands, talking softly in his room. 

Matthew* and Rachel* are a new couple. Both of them have lived in our community for quite a while, but it seems as though, suddenly, they’ve noticed each other. 

They both have dementia, but they’re near the same cognitive level. You could talk to one of them for a few minutes, and it may take you a bit to realize that the person you’re speaking to is cognitively impaired.

Relationships happen all of the time in senior living. In dementia care communities, it’s perhaps even more common, and sometimes more challenging. Sometimes it can be difficult to know when a relationship is consensual, especially if one partner is significantly more advanced into his or her dementia. 

In this relationship, however, both parties are more than happy to be together. Rachel used to walk down the hallways alone, but now Matthew is always by her side. Matthew used to stay in his room, but now he can be found in common areas and joining outings. If you’re looking for one of them, you’re looking for both of them. 

I walked by Rachel’s room yesterday and noticed that her family was visiting. She took Matthew’s hand and patted it gently. Rachel looked at her children and made a brave announcement. 

“This is my new friend,” she said, grinning. 

“It’s really nice to meet you, Matthew,” her son said.

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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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