May 1, 2013

You Are My Buddy…You Are My Friend

“I am so glad I found you!” she told me excitedly. I responded in turn, “Yes, so wonderful to have found you”. “Oh, this is so good” she said, as she continued to hold tight to my hands, exuding excitement and happiness.

By  Monica Heltemes
Alzheimer's Reading Room


You Are My Friend | Alzheimer's Reading Room
Last week, I was at a care facility working as an occupational therapist.

As I left the clinic to head upstairs, I passed through part of the dementia care wing. When passing this area, I generally say hello to any residents that I pass by.

 Today was no exception.

As I headed to the stairwell, I made eye contact with a woman seated in her wheelchair. Once our eyes met, she outstretched her arms to me. I followed suit and stretched my arms out to her.

As I walked forward, our hands met, grasping each other as though we were long lost friends.

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“I am so glad I found you!” she told me excitedly. I responded in turn, “Yes, so wonderful to have found you”. “Oh, this is so good” she said, as she continued to hold tight to my hands, exuding excitement and happiness.

Her next statement to me is still sticking with me, because it made my day just as much as it did hers. “You are my buddy!” she exclaimed “You are my friend!” and she brought my hands to her face.

I returned her sentiments – “Yes! You are my buddy! You are my friend!” And then we parted ways, as I went about my work.

I write this article, first because this was a wonderful encounter, bringing each other joy in this brief moment. This encounter took no more than about 1 minute. And it is important to note that I had not met this woman before this.

But I also write this article as an invitation to all those who may encounter individuals with dementia – health care workers, volunteers, community members, and others.

Might you take one or two minutes of your day to engage with the person with dementia as you pass by?

It can bring a moment of joy to the person with dementia. These moments of joy add up throughout the day.

They may not remember the individual encounters, but their mood will.

And their heart will.
Monica Heltemes
Monica Heltemes is a practicing occupational therapist and owner of MindStart™.

Individuals with dementia may stop participating in activities and blame it on alternate reasons, such as not being able to see or not being interested. But often it is truly due to the person having difficulty with doing traditional activities. MindStart designs adapted hobby-style items, such as games and puzzles, specifically for individuals with memory loss. They keep individuals with dementia active, while giving support to caregivers, and are quick and easy to use. Visit MindStart to learn more.
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