Feb 28, 2014

Friendship Between Men With Alzheimer’s

Then – and you can imagine my shock – they started holding hands and both continued telling me how many years they had been best friends.

Marie Marley
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

It isn’t uncommon for dementia patients to wander in and out of each other’s rooms, so when a stocky little man shuffled to a stop in front of Ed’s door at the Alois Alzheimer Center one afternoon I wasn’t surprised.

His black trousers were hanging a couple of inches below his waist and his plaid burgundy and grey flannel shirt was un-tucked on the right said.

What did surprise me, however, was when Ed (never one to easily make friends) smiled and raised his hand.

Then he shouted out, “Come in – Come in.”

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The man shuffled in, advancing in short jerky movements, his house-slippered feet barely lifting from the floor. Slightly balding, his remaining hair was jet black, his eyes dark brown, and he had a round jovial face that reminded me of my Irish Grampa Graves.

Ed turned and addressed me. “Kitty (his pet name for me), this is my dear friend, John. We’ve been best friends for years.”

And the little man offered, “Yes, we’ve been best friends forever.”

Ed smiled and patted the empty space next to him on the other side of the sofa and John sat down.

Then – and you can imagine my shock – they started holding hands and both continued telling me how many years they had been best friends.

I was delighted to see that Ed had a friend, one of the few male friends he’d had since coming to the US in the mid 1960’s.

Wanting to be gracious to Ed’s new friend I introduced myself to John.

Then I asked him, “How long have you lived here at the Center?”

He promptly responded “All my life!”

This surprised me because for some reason I really didn’t expect him to be as confused as Ed.

At any rate, here we had two small elderly gentlemen with dementia sitting side by side holding hands and smiling like a couple of 6-year old girls sitting on a bench, swinging their legs and waiting for the school bus.

Even though they couldn’t have been friends for more than the six months Ed had been at the Center, it was comforting to me to know that Ed felt as though he’d had this friend for many, many years.

I vowed right then and there to bring my camera on my next visit so I could photograph these two best friends together, holding hands and sitting so happily beside each other.


*Marie Marley, PhD, is the award award winning author of, Come Back Early Today: A Story of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. You can visit Marie’s website which has a wealth of advice for Alzheimer’s caregivers at ComeBackEarlyToday.

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