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I felt guilty.

It’s challenging, when you have nearly 50 residents, to spend equal time with all of them, especially those that stay in their rooms most of the time, I told myself. Still, I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to see some of my residents more often.

Beatrice* usually stayed in her room during the day. She didn’t really seem to want to join any programs or watch any of the entertainers that came in. In fact, she didn’t seem to say or notice much at all. Even when Beatrice was in the dining room, she spoke mostly to herself in short, quiet phrases. 

Beatrice’s husband was loyal. He visited most every day, and always sat in the room with his wife, holding her hand and talking to her. I had to put together Beatrice’s shadow box (a frame full of photos and memorabilia that represent the resident) to hang outside her door. I asked her husband to bring in some pictures.

The next day, Beatrice’s husband showed up with ten old photos of her, their family, and their life together. They were beautiful. I was struck by how different she looked now, and how introverted and quiet she’d become. I could tell from the photos that Beatrice loved to bake, had a beloved pet dog, and had many friends that cared about her. 

That evening, before I left work, I brought the photos to Beatrice’s room. I sat down beside her armchair and showed her one of them. “I like this picture,” I said. It was her, holding a beautiful cake that she’d made. The icing was perfect, and the small smile on her face was the look of a woman who was very proud of what she’d accomplished.

“That’s me,” she said. 

Beatrice went on to tell me, in detail, about each and every photo.

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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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