Mom had always enjoyed going out to eat, although for me it never was such a treat. She really enjoyed special treatment and my father paid a lot of attention to it. They knew each other in high school, there was a story of a first date on a sledding party one winters night. My mom’s family socio/economic standing was higher than my father’s, her parents had plans for her marriage to “a man of equal or higher standing.” Mom chose dad and her parents were 110% supportive of that choice”—there were two significant loans which were repaid on schedule. This is important because my father was very grateful to marry my mother and repaying the loans was his way of saying he was qualified to be their son in law.
On Sundays we took mom out to eat midday meal and some physical activity afterwards. The staff at the residence knew this schedule and we would call a couple of hours before to affirm the time so when we arrived mom would be dressed, changed and ready to go. My wife always accompanied us in case mom needed to use the bathroom and if parking was so far away that we needed to split up. We also requested and received from mom’s physician a handicapped parking tag which we only used when she was in the car and it was very helpful.
One afternoon just mom and I went for a drive to a nearby town and decided to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant located in a large old house with a large front garden area for outside seating. She had to use the restroom which was inside the house, up a few stairs, down a hallway, around a corner and turn left down another hallway into an old style bathroom with old style tiled floors, wooden doors on the stalls featuring an old fashioned sliding bolt to lock the stall door and old fashioned flush toilets.
I got her inside ok, but there were other occupants so I could not go in with her. After about ten minutes of waiting outside and pretty sure mom was the only one in there I entered to find that mom had locked herself in the stall but could not figure out how to slide the bolt to the unlock position. I had to crawl under the stall door to get inside, an action which at first startled her resulting in a verbal expression which attracted the interest of others outside causing them to investigate, although I was able to successfully explain the situation. After that anytime I took mom out for unextended time I made sure my wife accompanied us.
We tried a number of different restaurants but settled on two, both of which had food that mom liked and were logistically workable. Patience was a deteriorating quality for mom so parking close by, no waiting in line, a short wait for food, and where the staff was regular so they got to know us and our situation were important factors. Once, known as a “regular,” we arrived to find a long wait line and the waitress , recognizing us, spoke to the next in line enabling us to get a table right away. I mention this because generally you will find people are usually very when they understand the situation and there is no reason to be hesitant to take your “loved one who suffers dementia” out to public places because of what you might think will be unfortunate situations.
Mom would sit down at the table, take the menu in hand, she could read a few words if they were big enough, but still she would spend about five minutes intensely focused as if she was reading it from stem to stern, then fold it up, set in down on the table, look at with a smile and say “It all looks so good why don’t you order for me.”
When she was finished she was ready to go, regardless of whether we were finished so we needed to watch the timing to finish eating and pay the bill before she finished and ready to go. She had little patience to even sit and wait while I paid the bill.
These are simple little things, however going out to eat was a situation of being in the context of “normal society” where others just went about their business as if everything was normal seemed to me a positive situation for her.
The nice thing about going out to eat is that we were equally involved in an event where everyone understood the “rules and objective” and could behave accordingly resulting in a common shared experience which was meaningful. One of the reasons we chose to have mom in a memory care residence was that we believed she would receive better day to day care from professionals and in turn we could give her some special opportunities to things that were a part of her pre stroke “normal” life such as going out to restaurants, or included in family events, or other things. We did something everyday with her that we thought made her life better and that was ot part of the “basic everyday” care she received from the memory care staff.
In the old days a chocolate crepe for $0.45 at Kite Day in Franklin Park. Bob and Karen at the pan, these were very nice people.I hope they are doing well, or should I say,did well.
On this Saturday I drove them and their cart over to Franklin Park from Somerville in my van, they used to live up across from Somerville HIgh. I lived in Somerville then on Belmont St on the north side of the hill about halfway down. I could walk up the hill and then down again, go through the tunnel and exit on Beacon St in Cambridge at a local bar called Zircon where I used to see John Koerner and Roomful of Blues. I dated one of the bartenders, Lisa, a very pretty girl, and it just drifted apart. One night we had peyote tea and it is still a very nice memory.
In the top right is my old Chevy van, what a piece of junk, but I made money with it and when I wasn’t making money I was traveling around New England in it. Back then I could just pull over and sleep by the side of the road.
In memory care the term “resident” feels cold and impersonal to the ear yet the commonly used term “loved one” has its own weird feeling. Its two words instead of one making it feel cumbersome and forced while seeming to bring up the question that just because a person is in dementia does not mean someone loves them. Still its as good a euphemism as any because what is important is to focus on the care of the person instead of wasting time discussing the correct term to use when referring to them.
We made a sign to be placed outside the door of her room giving a little introduction to her. I don’t know how much it meant to other residents but it enabled their visiters to learn a little bit about their loved one’s neighbors. Perhaps it also helped mom to have a sense of “my room.” As well, reading the backgrounds of other residents was very beneficial for me, they were very amazing people.
Whatever the specific condition of your loved one in memory care, they still have some level of physical functioning, they see, smell, hear, taste and feel through touch. They also have a history of relations with things they like and things they do not like. Probably you will find things they like in their home, such as art on the wall, collectables, clothes, photographs of family or special memories. There may be a special bed spread, curtains, a dresser or chair they were fond of using.
Even though your loved one in dementia may act like they do not recognize the item, there may be “physically embedded memories” that unconsciously gives some positive emotional suport. And maybe not, but prima facie it seems common sense and seems more thoughtful than putting strange stuff in there.
In mom’s room we put photographs of the family, a dresser she and my father used through most of their marriage, a Japanese print and an antique lamp she brought back from Japan, a hanging textile from South Africa, a favorite chair and an antique oriental rug which had been in her parents house when she was a little girl.
Mom had a long and meaningful relationship with Ikebana, serving as national president of Ikebana International (II) and had her own school for 20 years. II published a quarterly magazine featuring arrangements from different schools. I made sure mom had copies of the magazine in her room and we browsed the photographs of different arrangements in them, sometimes discussing them. Because of her love for flowers fresh we regularly maintained flowers in her room.
My sister regularly sent postcards from Japan which I kept in her room, some out in the open, some in a drawer, and on visits we could go through them—it seemed each time we looked at them they were new to her so it worked out well. This was an excellent idea as it connected my sister and mom directly over the long distance from Japan and the experience was visual.As the postcards were not “vital information“ they could be delivered directly to mom from residence staff creating meaningful human interaction —mail call—, and we could store them and later bring them out as any time they were fresh and new to her. it also gave me a chance to talk to mom about her daughter , my sister, and what she was doing.
I used to buy things I thought were visually interesting (and safe) to place around the room, some easy, some hard, to find. On later visits I would look to see if she had found them and done something with them. As well as providing some visual stimulation it gave me a tool to measure her activity when I was not there. We also made some things during this period such as a graphic for the front door and a poster of her arranging Ikebana.
Still in the residence the one thing I kept seeing is she did not desire to use things, she did not seek them out for personal enjoyment. She did not really watch tv or listen to music or pick up a magazine to browse . Yet if I gave her one she might browse and sometimes comment. She knew to turn the pages but she would not originate the action by picking up the magazine.
In the two years between when my father passed and mom had her stroke she spent time editing her photo albums, reducing the images to ones which were important to her. I brought these albums to her room and we could look at them together. Sometimes she recognized her husband. When her friends would come to visit the week before I would review the images of her and the specific friends every day hoping that she would remember them. I think she did not remember the cognitively but when she saw them she seemed to know them and perhaps the photograhic review was of some value.
Each resident is a little different, not just in their personal differences but in specifics regarding their physiological depreciation situation. While “medical professionals” all seem to have names for things with meanings ” look at these as general categories upon which you can build a more detailed and more personal understanding of your loved one’s situation enabling you to develop a personal life care plan for your loved one.
One important thing is comfortable furniture so you both can sit and interact. Sometimes mom would fall asleep and I would stay, perhaps read or play solitaire on the computer and fifteen minutes later she would wake, being happy to see me or sometimes not even seeing me or perhaps just ignoring me, she might just get up and walk out of the room oblivious to my presence.