And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:16 NIV).
I was recently asked by a resident’s daughter if she thought it was suitable for her grandchildren – our resident’s great-grandchildren – to visit their Great-Grandma in the Nursing Home. They used to see her regularly, but they haven’t seen her for nearly a year and are wondering why they can’t see her anymore. What was my response?
I said that as long as she prepared her grandchildren for the visit that they would probably cope better than most adults! They need to know that Great-Grandma is confused and that she probably won’t recognize them. They might see her crying. She will certainly look different to the last time they saw her, because she has lost a lot of weight and looks much, much older. However, while she might not remember who they are, they know who she is – and her heart will remember them.
I don’t yet know whether the great-grandchildren have been in to visit. I certainly hope so. The children obviously wanted to, and why deny them – and their beloved Great-Grandma – the gift of one another? Why protect them from an illness – dementia – that is the leading cause of death of Australian women? Why shelter them from pain and loss, when they will encounter it many times in their lives?
Preparing children to visit a loved one with dementia is vital. While we can talk to them, we can also use some of the wonderful children’s books which either talk directly about dementia, or else touch on it. In previous blogs I have spoken about the books “Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge” (blog 6) and “This is my family” (blog 18).
I recently came across two other books that I can certainly recommend: “The Smell of Chocolate” and “My Gran’s Different”.
“The Smell of Chocolate” is written by Barbara McGuire. It was produced by Alzheimer’s Australia WA and concerns a young boy named Ben whose grandfather Pog has Alzheimer’s disease. The first part of the book is the story, where Pog and Ben make a cake to welcome The Queen. The story ends with this line: “The thing is, Alzheimer’s can happen to anyone’s grandparent – even one as tall and smart as my grandfather, Pog”. The second part of the book is entitled “Pog’s Alzheimer Fact File”. It contains facts about Dementia, Remembering, Forgetting, ‘Delusions, Hallucinations and Confabulations’, Feeling Connected, Hugs, Communicating, Today and in the Future, and a truly profound page about Identity entitled “Same Special Somebody” (page 27):
The second book “My Gran’s Different” contains fewer words and some delightful watercolour-style pictures. It’s about a boy named Charlie whose “gran is different” from his friends’ grandparents. It’s written by Sue Lawson and illustrated by Caroline Magerl.
One page shows them both:
A sentence on the back cover says it all: “A story of the love and complete acceptance that only a child can give”.
As I re-read those two books and thought about our dear resident at work and her great-grandchildren, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she will be recognized as the “Same Special Somebody” – and whether she will receive the “love and complete acceptance that only [those children] can give”.