Things we can’t forget

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“Please! Does anyone have a copy of today’s paper!” Mattie hollered across the room. “I’d like to read the paper!“

Some of our residents received a newspaper, while others did not. The papers that got delivered came because family members had paid for them, specifically for their loved ones.

Of the papers that got delivered, probably none of them got read in full. Really, most of our residents never got past the first page, but that didn’t matter—they enjoyed having it.

When I saw Mattie’s family later that week, I asked them if they could start paying for her newspaper. "She would love to get a paper to read,” I said. “She always asks for it.”

“Oh, she can’t read it, anyway,” Mattie’s daughter sighed. “All she wants to do is look at the headlines. It’s a waste of money. What’s the point?”

Mattie’s daughter was right—Mattie probably wouldn’t read past the headlines. But she wanted it, she wanted that newspaper because it presented some sense of normalcy for her. She was a woman who had always gotten the paper, and now, even with dementia, expected it.

I didn’t have the energy to explain this to Mattie’s daughter. “Okay,” I said, defeated, and went back to what I was doing.

As they were leaving for the day, one of Mattie’s other children ran up to me. “Rachael,” she said, “how much does the paper cost? I want mom to have it. Even if she only reads the headlines.”

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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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