Jul 31, 2018

Can a Dementia Patient Remember an Act of Kindness?

Kindness is a behavior marked by a pleasant disposition, and real concern for (an)other. Kindness is a virtue.

"Can a dementia patient remember an act of kindness"?
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Today I am going to share a story with you about my mom, Dotty, and me. This story happened on December 31, 2009.

Since many of you are new to the Alzheimer's Reading Room (6,400 new subscribers this year alone), I'll share this first. I took care of my mom, who lived with Alzheimer's, for eight and half years - 3,112 days.

I know what it feels like to be a caregiver. I understand. I understand because I was one. It isn't easy being one of us.

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On New Year's Eve 2011 I asked Dotty, do you want to go downtown for the fireworks tonight? Dotty responded, remember that women that gave me the chair the last time we went down to the fireworks?

Yikes. That was at 11:50 PM on New Year's Eve -- December 31, 2009.

A year ago at the time.

Dorothy DeMarco
We had already reached the point where Dotty could not remember anything. She was already into the moderate to severe stage of Alzheimer's.

I know this because I had her tested for a clinical trial in January. 2010. She scored a 14 on the MMSE.

Can a dementia patient remember an act of kindness?

Here is the background story.

I could no longer take Dotty into the tennis stadium where they have the fireworks on New Year's Eve in Delray Beach - she just couldn't walk that far any longer.

However, I found an empty grass lot right adjacent to the tennis stadium, and we had been using that lot of a couple of years.

I don't know why, but nobody parked in that lot. Well put it this way, nobody parks in that lot until they see me do it. And then they get the courage.

Oddly, we had a better view of the fireworks from that location than the people in the stadium. In fact one year when it was windy, the casings from the fireworks were raining down on us. That is how close we were to the actual fireworks.

We parked and Dotty and I jumped out of the car and walked about 30 feet to get a birds eye view of the fireworks.

Lo and behold, a young woman and her husband come walking along with two beach chairs. They ask, is this a good spot to watch the fireworks? I tell them, the best. They open up the chairs and take a seat.

About 30 seconds goes by and the woman gets up and insists that Dotty sit in her chair. Insists. Dotty takes a seat and is one happy camper.

Meanwhile, I am thinking, what the is wrong with the guy. He doesn't even bother to offer his wife his seat. He never did.

Women, the best, what can I say. Men, well I am one so lets just leave it at that.

What is the moral of this story?

One year after it happened Dotty remembered this act of kindness.

How? Why? There can only one be explanation - she did remember an act of kindness.

Kindness is a behavior marked by a pleasant disposition, and real concern for (an)other. Kindness is a virtue. Aristotle defined kindness as "helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person being helped."

This also reminds me of one of the things that happened to me after I wrote the article -

In the article I describe how one of the hugs that Dotty gave me was one of the greatest moments of my life.

A woman reader wrote to me and said she had never hugged her mom. So she couldn't do it. I wrote her a note that included these words

You can't change the past, but you can change the future.

I suggested that she try the hug and change her future.

About a month later, she wrote back and thanked me. She started hugging her mom and it had a big positive impact on both of them.

Did you know that a hug reduces stress and anxiety, and improves self esteem. This is by the way is a scientific fact. Go read the hug article.

Is a hug an act of kindness? Yes it is.

For eight years I held my mother's hand - every where we went. Was it an act of kindness? Was I sending a message to Dotty's brain that helped her to feel safer and more secure. No doubt.

Now there is some downside here. It is unlikely that dementia patients as they stage will thank you directly for your acts of kindness. They just aren't good at expressing their emotions. They don't thank us very often if at all, and they might stop telling us they love us.

It's not their fault - it all comes with the disease.

I remain convinced that Alzheimer's patients feel our acts of kindness, and I think Dotty proved it.

If you are not yet convinced then always remember this

Alzheimer's caregiving is one of the greatest acts of kindness of them all.

And even though they might not acknowledge this every day - they know it. They know it because they feel it.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.

You are reading original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's Care, The Power of Purpose in Our Lives

How to live a meaningful and purposeful life.

It is my belief that if Alzheimer's caregivers will open their mind, along with their heart, they can come to only one main conclusion - they are leading a meaningful and purposeful life.

Smile is an expression of pleasure, sociability, happiness, joy or amusement.

Hug an act of holding someone tightly in one's arms to express affection, caring, and understanding.


1. To hold fast or adhere to something, as by grasping, sticking, or embracing.

2. To remain close; resist separation: Cling together.

3. To remain emotionally attached.

Empathy the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Dementia care is the art of looking after and providing for the needs of a person living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.

Bob DeMarco, 2018, "Can a Dementia Patient Remember an Act of Kindness" , Alzheimer's Reading Room