Where’s Jim?

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Betty could often be found walking up and down the hallway carrying her baby dolls, one in each arm. I was unclear about whether she thought they were real or not, but, in any case, she loved them.

Betty’s husband, Jim, had died months earlier in the hospital. No one had ever told Betty that, though, and I felt that that was a smart choice. She wasn’t going to remember, anyway, and the news would have been very confusing and painful.

“Hey honey, have you seen Jim?” she’d ask a care aide. “He’s in the hospital right now, but he should be back tomorrow,” one would reply.

I quickly realized that she asked about Jim constantly—and the care aides always had the same answer. It was a beautiful showing of teamwork from the aides, and Betty always seemed satisfied with the answer.

My office is in the hallway, near where Betty sits with her baby dolls. At least six times a day, Betty will pop by my office and lean in the open doorway. 

“Hey honey, do you know where Jim is? I thought he was around here somewhere,” she asked.

“No, I think he’s in the hospital right now,” I said. “But don’t worry, he’ll be back soon, I heard he’s doing well,” I smiled.

“Oh man, thanks honey, glad to hear that,” she nodded and adjusted the baby dolls in her arms before walking away.

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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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