Dear Ms. Anyhooo,
This subject is so difficult for me to talk about but I am hoping you could give me some sage advice. My beloved Grandfather is suffering from dementia. Unfortunately, this condition has led to him having to live in a Nursing Home Facility. Many of my family members have reasoned that there is no use in buying him gifts anymore because he would not know if he got a gift anyway. I am not of that thinking and rather shocked by it.
Ms. Anyhooo, I took my little dog with me recently when visiting my Grandfather. When I put my wee Scottish Terrier up on the bed next to him, his face lit up with a big smile, and he petted my dog’s fur with such contentment.
I have told my family how I feel that they are wrong assuming my Grandfather would have no positive response to receiving gifts. I have explained how just because he may not always know who each of us is in the moment – he did grasp that Rambo was a dog and that both animals and those who pet them get joy from the exchange.
I will not stop bringing Rambo to visit when I see my Grandfather, and I will continue to bring him gifts too. He always complains of feeling cold, so I suggested that my other family members bring him gifts like warm pajamas, scarves, blankets, and wool socks. The response I get is they all think I am crazy.
How can I get my family to understand that having dementia does not mean one stops feeling appreciated or worthy of thoughtful acts?
So disappointed in family, Elizabeth from Washington, D.C.
Dear disappointed Elizabeth,
Why, if I were you, I would be pitching a hissy fit with a tail on it over how your family is carrying on. What in tarnation is your Kinfolk thinking? If you ask me, and you did, they are doing a whole lot of not thinking about this subject.
Precious, you and I are two peas in a pod on this one. I agree 100% with the way you see the gift-giving question, and you are not crazy. Now then, just how are we going to bring about the come to Jesus meeting that is needed to turn around those relatives who are wandering off the plantation if it were.
I am thinking there needs to be some education laid on them, so it’s past time you get out that teacher’s ruler. The very first lesson on that list should be obvious. Your Grandfather is still in this world, and as such, he is still very much a part of the family. Elderly dementia is a very hard boulder to lift for the entire family – but that is what the family does -collectively they carry the weight.
Frankly, it is rather shameful and disrespectful for those in your family to act as if he is just a boulder sitting in a bed waiting to pass on. True enough, I would not give a rock a gift … But a Grandfather with dementia is not stone, so bring on the gifts…and plenty.
Fixin to move on to lesson two. Dementia is the very reason that families should be working overtime to create those meaningful moments through gift exchanges. Your Grandfather needs stimulation to connect to others even if that is sporadic and not always satisfying to those who visit. Gifting allows for the family to also engage in reminiscing with their loved one and that benefits the visitor even on the days when your Grandfather may not respond. Goodness gracious how can it be a useless thing to do something that makes you feel closer to your loved one?
Lesson number three. Not all gifts need to be store-bought presents either. Your visit with Rambo is an example. Simply taking him outside in the wheelchair to feel the sun on his face and hear the birds, or playing an old favorite tune, sharing old photo albums, are all forms of giving. Here are a few other ideas:
- Sit and color in a coloring book.
- Bring lotions and massage into his hands.
- Soft neck and shoulder massage.
- Bring a favorite food, like ice cream or a homecooked meal.
- bring a stuffed animal to cuddle.
- Watch a sporting event or show on tv they used to love together.
- Post up an oversized calendar where they can see it and mark when you will be visiting next.
- Bring the younger kids when appropriate to visit.
Final lesson. I reckon if your family wants to be stubborn about this then so be it. Sugar, you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! But, I would ask them this one question: ” If I were in a coma and you visited me in the hospital would you refuse to talk to me cuz you think I could not hear you or talk back?” I mean lordy we know coma patients hear people talking and I suspect your relatives could never sit in a room and keep their mouths shut. Why? Because it is normal to want to reach out and connect to someone you love especially when they are hurting, that’s why. Go on now gal, ask your family why they don’t want to be normal? (Oh, that made me giggle.)
Baby girl, your Grandfather is very fortunate to have you in his life as you are to have him, the two of you are as good as gold. If none of them lessons take hold, then chalk it up to not being able to make a snowman in July. You keep doing the right thing and visit your Grandfather and share gifts, which means Rambo included.
Bless you, and your Grandfather, little haint,
Ms. Anyhooo writes for the Right Wire Report, who provides common sense down-to-earth answers to your personal relationships on love, life, and everything in between. Spun from the heart of the Tennessee mountain country, follow her on the hashtag #DearAnyhoooAnswers (save this link to your favorites bookmarks). If you have any questions for Ms. Anywhooo to answer please send them to email@example.com or Contact Us.
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