Several years ago, Dorothy broke her hip, which sent her from hospital to rehab center and eventually to Houghton County Medical Facility, a nursing home for low income seniors. Suffering from acute dementia, she rarely leaves her bed now, let alone her room, and eats most of her meals alone.
Dorothy’s friend Carol, a staff member at Little Brothers—Friends of the Elderly, had been visiting Dorothy for years in her own home and had formed a friendship with her long before dementia had robbed her of her memory. Dorothy took a keen interest in the outside world, but even before her fall, had trouble getting out. Carol didn’t give up on her—instead she found a way to bring the world to home to Dorothy. During her visits, Carol would take out her phone and show pictures of her family and friends, scrolling through photo after photo and amusing Dorothy with stories—offering her a window into the larger world.
For the last several months, Dorothy has not recognized Carol when she comes to visit her at the nursing home and has mostly stayed in bed. On a recent visit though, Carol called ahead, asked the aids to help get Dorothy up and dressed because the flowers were blooming and she wanted to take Dorothy for a walk in the rose garden at a nearby church. As Carol pushed her in the wheelchair, Dorothy seemed to delight in the fresh air, the fragrant roses, and the freedom of being outside. Toward the end of the visit, Carol pulled out her phone and began flipping through some photos. A flicker of recognition passed over Dorothy’s face. Some memory had obviously been triggered. Carol paused, waiting for her to process the memory. Suddenly Dorothy smiled, “You mean you’re MY Carol?” she asked, and Carol smiled back.
“Yes, YOUR Carol.”
In that flicker of a moment, the strain and detachment disappeared and Dorothy warmed. Her smile radiated happiness, her eyes recognition. It wasn’t a miracle drug that brought her out of that fog of memory, just being in the presence of a good friend. And friendship is what we offer here at Little Brothers.