Attachment to Objects

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Many of my residents are very attached to particular items. This can become an issue when those objects go missing, which happens often.

I once had a resident who lost her wedding ring. Despite her memory loss, she spent weeks focused on the loss of that ring. I told her family to please bring in a cheap band of some sort, but they failed to do it. So, she just spent weeks and weeks panicked over the loss of that ring.

One of my current residents, Joann, burst out of her room into the hallway last week. “Someone stole my watch!” she cried.

Her watch had stopped working the week before, and one of the aides had taken it to get fixed. At the moment, though, I had no idea where the watch was.

“Joann, your watch stopped working,” I explained. “We are fixing it for you!”

“Impossible!” she cried. “Watches don’t stop working!”

There was no amount of convincing that would work to help Joann feel better. She just wanted that watch, working or not.

I immediately began running around the hallways of my care community, looking for that watch.

With the help of the nursing staff, I found it locked up in the med cart. No one had had a chance to fix it yet, but I doubt that it mattered.

I grabbed it and went back to Joann’s room. Her cheeks were stained with tears when she opened the door.

“Joann, I found your watch!” I said, offering the still-broken watch. 

“Oh, thank you so much!” she exclaimed, slipping it back onto her wrist. She took no notice of the incorrect time. “I’m so glad I have it back,” Joann said.

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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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