Dementia’s Perfect Gift
By Shelley Krupa, Business Operations Coordinator at Jefferson Memory Care
I walked up and down aisles of stores wondering to myself, “What in the world can I get her? She doesn’t need anything. Doesn’t want anything. She’s impossible to buy for. I should just give up. Will it matter if all she gets for a gift is my presence when she needs me?”
I left the store - empty handed. Again.
That year was different for her, I knew her condition had worsened.
At least she still remembered me and appreciated it when I told her, “Thank you for being so well prepared for the holidays. Your shopping is all done and the presents are hidden away. I wish I was as good as that as you are.” She smiled with pride, and that familiar ol’ twinkle in her eyes.
I wondered if she missed going shopping? I wondered if she missed wrapping presents? I wondered if she missed the messes made while opening gifts? I wonder if she missed all the hugs and thank yous and giggles of delight?
How could I ever make this right? Her dementia sure knew how to win a fight.
As we drove to visit her a week after the holidays, on a chilly winter’s day, I contemplated my failure to find her the perfect gift.
My timing was off. Since the family was sick on Christmas day, we couldn’t go there to see her. We didn’t want to get her or anyone else at the memory care facility sick. We were being kind, we rationalized. We trusted that the caregivers would make sure she didn’t feel alone and that she enjoyed her day.
That day, she opened the gift we gave her – the cuddly blanket was a welcomed sight. She ran her fingers across the softness and smiled.
She set it aside and sat upright next to the kids, with her eyes so bright. Our stay was longer than usual. Her energy dictated the length. We gave her extra hugs and kisses while we stayed with her to tell her stories of how we were sick on Christmas and couldn’t make it there to visit her. She soaked up every moment, as if each one could be stored away for later.
A month passed by, the holidays were all gone, and the decorations were put away. It was just another travel to her doctor day for us.
Just the two of us, together again. “Mom, the doctor asked you how your Christmas was this year?”
She smiled and said, “Oh, it was the best one ever.” I smiled too. Our togetherness was all that truly mattered.
The age-old problem of trying to find the perfect gift for someone doesn’t seem to ever end. Forgetfulness in memory loss has its place, especially when replaced with the gift of your empathetic presence.
Those moments are easy to wrap in hugs, too. Happy Holidays Hugs toyou and your loved ones.