The Mirror.

4

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I held Ingrid’s hand as we walked down the hallway to her room. Ingrid did not speak much, and when she did, her sentences were short and simple.
I was not sure how much she understood, but it was always easy to coax a smile out of her. 

Ingrid was pleasant and peaceful. Most days, Ingrid spent her time picking up objects from one room and taking them to another. Her own room was a treasure trove of lamps, stuffed animals, and anything else she found interesting.

Ingrid was able to toilet mostly without assistance, but she needed cueing. I helped her get to the toilet and helped her get her pants down. She used the bathroom, and then I helped her move to the sink. 

I turned on the water and she began doing the same thing she’d been doing for decades: washing her hands with soap and water and looking at her own face in the mirror. She finished up and I handed her a towel to dry her hands.

Ingrid continued to look quietly at her own reflection.

“What do you think, Ingrid?” I asked, pointing to the mirror.

She gave a short laugh. “Pitiful,” she said.

“Pitiful?” I repeated. “Why pitiful?”

“My hair…is old,” she said, with a small smile of acknowledgement, now looking down at her shoes.

“I think it looks beautiful,” I smiled back.

Ingrid gave another quick, jovial laugh and finished drying her hands. She turned from the sink and walked out of the bathroom with me by her side.

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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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