Be ready to time travel with loved ones with memory loss

By Maricel Halmo

CarePartners

“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”

— Kevin Arnold

Family and friends have special ways of reminiscing. Shared memories bubble to the surface with a knowing twinkle of an eye, and inside jokes pass with just the twitch of a lip.

There are also memories about each other that remain unspoken because of that shared history, and we will never know what fond tales a loved one would share about us with a stranger.

Louise, a resident at the Cottages, was excited to have a visitor. She had donned her favorite scarf and made sure her nail polish matched. As she sat across from the beautiful younger woman, she caught a hint of familiarity as she noticed a silver elephant pendant sparkling on her necklace.

Louise perked up, “My daughter Sarah loves to collect elephant figures and jewelry. She started gathering them when she was just 3 years old after she saw one at the zoo and her eyes lit up with such joy because it very carefully took a peanut from her outstretched hand. Every time I see an elephant I think of her and I see that look on her little face…”

At the corner of her eye, a tear glistened at the memory as her mind drifted back to the cherished moment.

This could go one of two ways ….

Scenario 1

Holding Louise’s warm hands, Sarah felt simultaneously touched by the story and hurt that her mother didn’t recognize her. “Mom, it is me — Sarah — your daughter!” Flustered, Louise tried to gather herself as she wiped the tear from her eye, trying to regain her composure. She felt humiliation, suspicion, and confusion. My daughter? How is this her — how did she grow up so quickly? This is impossible. She is just 3 years old. This grown woman can’t be her, but there is something familiar and kind about her so maybe she is right… “Oh, uh, yes, of… of course, dear. I knew that.”

Scenario 2

Although Sarah felt disappointed that her mother didn’t recognize her, she decided to put her own feelings aside and instead assume the role of “Friendly Stranger,” which her mother had assigned to her. She said, “Tell me more about your daughter.”

Louise lit up, her eyes sparkling like they did when she was younger. “She is 3 years old and she has the most beautiful curly golden hair. Everyone says I should cut it but I just couldn’t bear it so it has grown down to here….”

Sarah listened intently, soaking up every word as she realized that she had never known exactly what she was like as a 3-year-old, nor how her mother felt about her at the time. She felt like she was spying on the woman her mother was when Sarah was a young child — a woman that, as an adult, she had never known.

When caring for or visiting with a loved one with memory loss, try to meet them where they are. If he is in the war in 1940, be fighting right alongside him in 1940. If she thinks she needs to get home to her young children, ask her about her children and find out more about them — even if those “young children” are yourself or your parents.

Typically, when two people are talking, one is remembering a moment from the past. However, a person with memory loss are living a moment from the past. If you go on that journey with them, you become a time traveler.

Are you ready to time travel?

For resources and guidance to assist those caring for someone with dementia, Alzheimer’s or memory loss, contact Maricel Halmo, community relations director for CarePartners Senior Living, 360-280-5515 maricel@carepartnersliving.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Bill Howell, a plant pathologist from Prosser, created the Lucy Rose apple variety as a cross between the Honeycrisp and an Airlie Red variety. They are notable for their red centers.(Jennifer Bardsley)
Sweet treats for the holiday season direct from Washington growers

Washington State farmers survived a difficult year. The fruits of their labor deserve admiration.

Roger Fisher pauses while jamming in the garden at his Monroe home.
Monroe resident Roger Fisher reflects on his time with Heart

He was a co-founder of the Seattle group that rose to worldwide fame in the 1970s. He left the band when his romance with Nancy Wilson went south.

The Pacific Ice rink under construction at Port of Everett on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port of Everett unveils seasonal ice rink on the waterfront

The outdoor rink will be open through the end of January. The port plans for it to return annually.

The 2022 Mini Cooper is available in two-door or four-door hardtop models. A two-door soft-top convertible model is also offered. (Manufacturer photo)
2022 Mini Cooper reinforces the brand’s reputation for fun

An exterior freshening, new 8.8-inch touchscreen and value-driven Oxford Edition model are highlights.

Don Sarver, left, and Kyle James, right, snowshoe on the Skyline Lake Trail on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019 in Leavenworth, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Don Sarver, left, and Kyle James, right, snowshoe on the Skyline Lake Trail on Jan. 26, 2019, in Leavenworth. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

The listings include Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest updates and REI Lynnwood workshops.

Baden-Baden: Getting naked with strangers

Relaxing at the spa resort of Baden-Baden in southern Germany’s Black Forest,… Continue reading

Where have all the workers gone?

Many of us wonder why there are so many vacancies in so… Continue reading

Book-related events in Snohomish County.
Author events and poetry readings around Snohomish County

The listings include Third Place Books, Everett Public Library and Neverending Bookshop events.

Lady Gaga in "House of Gucci." (Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc./TNS)
A stone-cold Lady Gaga brings down the ‘House of Gucci’

Ridley Scott’s movie dives into a luxury brand and a family laid low by greed and infighting.

Most Read