This last October my dad's dad passed away. Grandpa Fisher reached his late nineties and was being treated for dementia. Our family spent a whole lot of time with him at his assisted living apartment which was a part of a retirement/nursing home. The home specialized in the needs of veterans going through the stages of old age or dementia. Their dementia care unit was located in a separate area where you could only gain access by punching a code into a keypad that opened up two heavy-duty doors to the sweet sweet sound of a countdown alarm. Once you get past the doors you walk down a long hallway lined with apartments belonging to the various tenants of the unit. The staff is always making sure that their residents are comfortable physically and mentally.
During one of my visits, I had an especially special encounter with one of the dementia care residents. I had just MacGyvered my way through the unit’s entrance (A.K.A used a five-digit code) when on the other side of the doors I was greeted by Paul. I’ve been told Paul likes to keep track of things by making lists. Not your run-of-the-mill grocery list, but a list of the things he needs to do from the moment he wakes up to when he goes to bed. Paul was standing there with his list in-hand ready to take on the day (by this time it was already 5 P.M.). He looked at me, I looked at him, we said our hellos as I tried to maintain direct eye contact and ignore the fact that Paul hadn’t written down on his list to “put on pants/underwear”. This was quite a shame because a nice pair of slacks would have really complimented the long dress shirt/sweater/business socks combo thang he had going on.
Those kinds of experiences put me in a funny place. I was expected to act as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening and that Paul was fully clothed. I think we have a strong opinion on what is normal and what isn’t, but when you step inside a dementia care unit those opinions stay on the other side of the doors.
Paul and I continued on our way and the only comment I heard was one of the nurses saying “I think he’s switched up his A.M./P.M.’s again”.