I took her cousin and her oldest friend with me to see Mum this week. Pam, her cousin, is a few years older than Mum and so has known her for all of her 77 years. Carole, her friend, went to junior school with Mum most of those 77 years ago so the emotional bonds are strong. Mum’s pleasure at seeing them was obvious.
Another friend who’s known Mum for a considerable time called in to see her last week. Maggie tells me they looked at photographs of friends and laughed a lot. Most, if not all of these friends are of more than 50 years standing and although Mum can’t remember their names now, Maggie thinks she recognised some faces.
What is beyond doubt, though, is how much Mum derives from these visits, whether or not she knows who she’s talking to. A smiling face means so much to someone living with dementia. I’m not a medical expert, as those who’ve followed this blog for some time will testify, but I do know the power of a smile.
Sometimes, when talking about dementia, I hear people justifying (to themselves?) why they not longer visit a relative or close friend:
“He doesn’t know who I am any more.”
“She’s in her own world. I don’t understand what she’s talking about.”
Visiting a loved one can be a distressing experience. Not all people living with dementia are as accepting and content as Mum. Some take out frustration on their visitors. It’s easy to understand why, in those circumstances, people find visits too painful.
We’re fortunate, too, that Carole, Pam, Maggie and others continue to visit Mum. They enrich her life because, although she probably won’t remember what they said even before the end of the “conversation”, the warmth of those visits with stay with Mum for a long, long time.