James and I arrived at the room she shares with another person… there was Constance, in bed – fully dressed, including shoes – huddled beneath a pile of blankets. Very typical. Standing directly in front of her, I softly spoke her name. She slowly opened her eyes and looked blankly at me. But her gaze quickly turned to James – and it was then that the broad, beaming smile appeared on her face.
Constance pushed the blankets aside and swung her legs over the side of the bed, inviting James up to lie down beside her. She put her arms around his neck and hugged him, all the while smiling and saying, “James is my friend. James comes to see me.”
We stayed like this for about 15 minutes. I was about to ask the aid to help me get Constance up on her walker so she could take James for his walk down to the end of the corridor and back. Getting her to ambulate is something she ordinarily refuses to do. But, just at that moment, her daughter came in.
This was a wonderful meeting. I introduced myself – and James. She replied by saying, “This is James. My mother talks about James all the time. She tells me how he visits her every week.” All the while Constance beamed. “Yes, this is my friend James.”
It is the visits from the dog that trigger her memory. She still maintains that her daughter never visits her, though the aids confirm that she comes all the time. It is the dog she knows and calls by name. She has no idea who I am. Dogs can make a big difference in the lives of those living with dementia.
I have always felt badly when I’ve had to tell Constance it was time for us to leave. But, today, she wasn’t left by herself. Her daughter was there talking with her, getting ready to go downstairs with her for lunch, then after she planned to do her hair. We left Constance smiling. I was very happy to have met her daughter. She is trying the best she can. And, she thanked me for making my visits with James.