Jun 13, 2016

How Mom Forgot Nearly Everything and Taught Me How to Live

Greet everyone with a smile and a compliment.

More wisdom on Alzheimer's care, dementia care, and memory care | Alzheimer's Reading Room
By Marilyn Raichle
Alzheimer's Reading Room

It seems obvious, of course, but it didn’t come naturally to our Scottish-Presbyterian household.

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Compliments were met with resistance.

They encouraged pride after all—one of the seven deadly sins. The best course was to demur and if that didn’t work, to redirect.

Mom was always a happy, cheerful woman and as her dementia increased, she became even more so. Now she was the one giving compliments.

In Supported Living, she greeted everyone with a smile—genuine and infectious. Throughout the day she offered a cheery greeting to the nurses and staff of Supported Living. “You look so beautiful,” she would say.

Those smocks all the caregivers wear? I wouldn’t exactly call them pretty but Mom did. “What lovely outfits,” she told them.

And in return, everyone loved her. Who wouldn’t?

I try to emulate Mom. It turns out everything and everyone is much nicer when you start with a smile and something positive to say. Who knew?

By the way, Mom may have excelled at giving compliments but was still terrible at receiving them. Tell her she was beautiful and she would immediately make a hideous face to show you how wrong you were.

Old habits die hard.

Though sometimes she forgot even this. Once we were walking out of her apartment to find the hallway empty. Mom turned to me with a gleam in her eye and said, “You know what this means? We’re the most beautiful women in sight.”

In the old days I would have said, “Well, at least you are.” This time I just smiled.

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you ...
Nat King Cole - Smile

More on Dementia Care by Marilyn Raichle

Marilyn Raichle writes a blog, The Art of Alzheimer’s— How Mother Forgot Nearly Everything and Began to Paint and is curator of The Artist Within, an art exhibition featuring 50 artworks by 42 individuals, ages 60-101, living with dementia.

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