An Empty Couch.

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It’s easy to underestimate the amount that people with dementia rely on each other for companionship. 

While my residents usually seem to “forget” their new friends after these people die or move away, they do not forget the connection. Often, after a pair of residents is separated by death or by distance, the one left behind can be found searching for the departed. Even if he or she cannot explain who or what they are looking for, it is clear that they are grieving. 

“Is my family coming to pick me up tonight?” Virginia asked, sitting alone by the front door. 

“No, not tonight,” I answered honestly.

Virginia is easy to redirect, partly because her short-term memory is so poor. She thanked me and got up, pushing her walker down the long hallway.

Ever since her best friend left, Virginia has been more lost and confused than ever before. When her friend was there, the pair could be found sitting on their favorite couch. Sometimes they would talk, but mostly they would just sit, relying on each other for social cues and timing. “Is it time for bed yet?” one would ask. “No, not yet,” the other would reply.

Now, Virginia sits elsewhere. Now, the couch is empty.

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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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