And boy, do the residents know it.

In my time in assisted living, the residents continually ask me, as I walk by, who my Valentine is.  If my Valentine and I have Valentine's Day plans.   If they can be my Valentine.  {It's very distressing for them ~ especially one in particular ~ that I am 32 and unmarried.  "Do you have a fella'?  He'd better not wait too long ... he'll lose you!"}

Last week I spent some time in the secure (read:  locked) memory unit, casually chatting with the residents around one of the tables.  The question came up, "What is the secret to true love?"  All of these lovely elders have advanced Alzheimer's; all of them had very concrete and specific ideas about the meaning of true love:

Honesty.  Mutual Respect.  Kindness.  Sweetness.
 "I'll take care of you, you take care of me."  
A good bed partner.
"The itch".  (I'm not sure what that means, precisely, but I think I can imagine.)
A good supper on the table and clean clothes in the closet.

And my favorite:
"True love?  What's true love?"  

I do so love these elders.  I especially love these elders with advanced Alzheimer's.  I love to connect with them visually.  I love to hold their hands.  I love to hear what's bothering them that day (even if they happen to be using a made up language).  I love their spiciness and the way they make me laugh.  I love using my creative brain to help find ways to calm agitation while honoring their reality and their sense of self.

My actual Valentine's Day will be a quiet, non-event in which I work at the Very Large Hospital all day long and then go to my Social Work and the Law class for 3 hours Monday night (and get a paper back, so I'm hoping this prof is showing me the love right now as he's grading it).  

Shoes and I will celebrate Valentine's Day with a dinner out Saturday evening.  We've been doing long distance longer than when we dated while living in the same town, so my time with him (any time I get to spend with him) is Good.  It's Good because we choose to make it good.  Not Perfect, but pretty darn Good.

I hope it's still Good after I tell him about his competition in the assisted living unit .... ;)

1 Comment

  1. Willow on February 10, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    Bless you for the work you do and the love you spread. I know what you mean...when I was working with elderly, the idea that I had been "dating" for 16 years made them twitchy. They wanted to go pound that man and make him "pop the question".

    I love old men. They make me feel happy inside. Even when they are cranky.


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