I work with dementia patients for my job. I would like to share this touching story with you that happened last year.
I have an old woman with dementia in the unit that has severe disorientation of time and place. I will refer to her here as Anna Rosemary.
Anna Rosemary is a sweet lady. She cannot put her words together to make any sentences that make sense. She expresses emotion clearly through facial expression, gestures and the volume and tone of her voice.
If she is sad then she cries. If something amuses her, she laughs. When she sees me she always smiles.
Sometimes when i get to work she looks at me and says “thank God.” which means I have not seen you around, I am glad to see you back.
I stopped to talk with her one night. She likes to talk back and forth. She listens and she responds but her words do not come out the way she wants.
She says to me “I feel like I am cuckoo.” I was surprised at this because it had not occurred to me that she was aware that there was something wrong with her brain.
I repeated it back to her to make sure I had understood her. I said “Anna Rosemary. do you feel like you are cuckoo?”
She said “Yes. I am trying to figure myself out.” I was amazed at the clarity of this sentence. I must have taken a huge amount of effort for her to force her brain to put that sentence together. That shows how important it is for people to communicate their feelings to another person.
I gave her a hug and told her that her brain was being a bit cuckoo and I did not know why. I told her that I still knew her and loved her. I could still understand how she was feeling.
I told her that I feel a bit cuckoo sometimes too. Something happens with our brain sometimes. But that she was still Anna Rosemary.
She hugged me and said “it is hard” I asked her if she felt it was hard to put her words together. She hugged me tighter.
I said to her, “you still know love. You still have a beautiful heart and know what love is.”
“You don’t have to keep trying so hard right now to put the words together. You are full of love and I love you.”
She and I stood there and I held her and kissed the top of her head.
Anna Rosemary hugged me back, and felt comforted, as did I.
She stopped worrying about putting her words together for a while and took my hand to walk with her into the living room area. We just walked together , holding hands for a while in silence.
Sometimes there is more love in silence than with a lot of talking. If she can still love people and needs to be loved then love itself must transcend the basic functions of the brain.
Love and the need to be loved is more powerful than the rational, cognitive parts of the brain.
Even when most of the brain is not functioning properly, love is still alive and thriving.
The brain is the ruling organ of the body. It controls every function in the body, including language processing and speech.
But even with all of those functions damaged, the capacity for love is in tact. There is something very special about our ability to love.