The old man beckoned me over to his chair. "What happened to Jan, red headed?" I thought for a moment.
"She is the one we all liked so much. Yes, she got worse and her husband couldn't take care of her at home anymore so she is in a nursing home."
Demenita patients can be spiraling down as in Alzheimer Disease or they can just have a few pieces missing from a stroke. This fellow is unusually sharp. He knew exactly what I was saying and I was amazed that he had remembered her these past two weeks.
Once I asked him if he had ever been married. "No," he said, "I thought I could go it alone." He lives with his nephew now. All of the clients where I work go home at 5pm. What a relief for the caregivers to not have to answer the same questions over and over.
This fellow did not ask me about Jan again. I went over and sat by someone else. She was so worried that her daughter would not show up to pick her up. She was anxiously looking out the windows and trying to stand up when she thought someone was coming for her. She was in danger of falling.
When I looked back at the old man there were tears in his eyes. Tears. He knows. He knows. He is a trivia whiz and loves the old songs. He is kind and gentle. He is facing the unknown just like we all do. He never realized how much he would need other people along that journey.
If I ever find myself in a dementia situation I want to be dignified. I want to reach out to the person sitting next to me and let them know comfort in times of trouble. That is what Jan did. She made us all feel that the world would be ok even if it was horrible and scary. It had been difficult to see her spiral down into dysfunction. Her red hair and easy ways were missed by the old man. I could understand the tears in his eyes.