PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Love Encounter?

When I read about Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired from the Supreme Court in January 2006 at age 75 to take care of her husband, John, who had Alzheimer's disease, and the fact that she was "OK" with his "falling in love" with another woman at the memory care facility, in my mind and imagination I concurred. She talked about being happy that he had someone around at the home all of the time with whom to stroll the halls, watch TV, share dinner, hold hands.

A similar occasion happened with Gregory and me the other day and my first reaction was, "I do not want him to fall in love with a haggle toothed, old woman with dementia. " As soon at that thought crossed my mind I had to laugh at my bias. But the difficulty goes deeper, as the Social Worker and I discussed.

Here is the story. First report I received was that a new resident had taken a fancy to Gregory and during morning activities was holding his hand. My first encounter with her was later at lunch. I did not like her at once. She was aggressive, demanding, pushy, and "old, haggle toothed and demented" which turned out to be besides the point.

She approached our table, walking her wheelchair towards us, saying in a loud voice, "Hi Gregory." Gregory did not respond as he often is not available to these around him and he was concentrating on eating his lunch. As she got closer, she more aggressively repeated "Hi Gregory" in a tone that was expecting and demanding a reply. 

I intervened, "I don't think Gregory can talk right now as his is involved in eating his lunch." 

"Oh yes he can!" she demanded. I repeated the exact words a second time and she repeated her exact words a second time. This went back and forth at least four or five times, as if we hadn't heard each other.

With dementia patients, one's form of communication is different from the norm so while it may have been weird to encounter this woman's and my interaction, I think I reacted well.

Finally, however, I said "You cannot bother Gregory right now!" and she left the dining room. End of encounter.

Later that day I was with Gregory at dinner time. The Social Worker asked me if she could have a word and we stepped out into the hall. "There was an incident with Gregory this afternoon. The new woman, who has taken a fancy to Gregory, took his hand and was rubbing her breast with it. 

One of the Resident Care Assistants noticed, separated them, and came to me. We had a meeting with all of the staff this afternoon about the incident. In itself, these things happen, but because Gregory cannot advocate for himself, we will advocate on his behalf. 

The staff will make sure that the the woman and Gregory will not come in contact with each other. Also her room will be moved to another wing (currently her room was two doors down from Gregory's.)

I thanked her for the staff's being on top of the situation, assured her that I understood the situation and was not upset, and was impressed with the idea of the staff advocating on Gregory's behalf.

So I think that I am still OK with the possibility of Gregory's finding someone he likes/loves, even if it is a demented older woman. What bothered me was that this woman was mean, aggressive, and inappropriate in the way she was meeting her needs. Gregory could not defend himself and I did not want her hassling Gregory. 

With all this said, I now say this honestly if not somewhat tongue in cheek: If Gregory is to fall in love with someone else, I at least want her to be a nice, kind person whom I can approve of. I do not care if they are the same religion and I do not care if there is a great age difference, I only want my Gregory to be happy.

There are millions of stories in the big city that is the closed world of dementia and The Lieberman Center and this was just one. Lieberman once again proves itself to be a wonderful environment for Gregory. My heart is light. Another day, another story.

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