There’s Friendship in Dementia


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A pair of my residents walked down the hall together. Joyce was hand in hand with her new friend, Darlene. Joyce stopped and looked at me carefully. 

“Have you seen ‘Melissa’ around here anywhere?” she asked me.

I cracked a smile, but tried not to laugh. “Melissa” was Darlene’s daughter’s name. Darlene tended to perseverate on the name “Melissa,” since she was very attached to her daughter.

“Sorry, Joyce, I haven’t seen Melissa anywhere,” I said.

“Well,” Joyce sighed. “If you see her, can you please tell her that her mother, Darlene, is looking for her?”

“Sure,” I smiled back.

Joyce, in her new-found friendship and love for Darlene, was attempting to help her find her daughter. Darlene was smiling and happy, holding Joyce’s hand. She probably was not really looking for her daughter at that moment, but instead was comforted by saying “Melissa” over and over again.

For Joyce, though, the mission had begun. She wanted to help her new friend feel comfortable.

I think, truly, one of the BEST reasons to move a loved one into a long-term care community is because you want to improve that person’s social experience. Dementia care communities foster social engagement and friendship, while keeping a loved one at home tends to isolate them from others.

An hour later I found them on one of the hallway’s couches together, sleeping, but still holding hands.

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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 two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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