Dementia and the Present Moment

Recently someone told me that they stopped visiting their grandma in the nursing home because she doesn’t remember the visits anyway.

Perhaps she doesn’t. Maybe she can’t recall you were there five minutes after you left. There’s a chance she’s going to tell the staff at the nursing home that no one ever visits her–when she often has multiple visitors in one day. So…what’s the point? Why waste your time?

But let’s back up.

Did you have a first birthday party? I bet you did. Do you remember it? I’m guessing you don’t.

Your parents knew you wouldn’t remember it. Yet they still bothered to buy you gifts and a maybe a special little round cake that they allowed you to put your hands it. You probably made a mess and everyone laughed. I’m guessing you had fun.

But you don’t remember it?

I guess there was no point in that first birthday party, huh?

Is the only reason to do something to create a memory? Or is there value in the moment itself?

Sometimes I wonder if the universe put people living with dementia in my life to help me grow as a person.

You see, I’m not good at living in the moment.

The other day I was overanalyzing a social interaction that happened twenty years ago. Literally twenty years ago.

And today I was stressed out about where people are going to park at a conference I’m organizing….the conference is four months away.

I live in the past. I live in the future. I don’t spend enough time in the present.

I was recently visiting a nursing home to do a staff education when I struck up a conversation with a resident and her daughter.

I asked how their day was going. I appreciated how the daughter was comfortable in the silence of waiting her mother to respond rather than answering the question herself.

“Well, I’m not sure what we’ve been doing, but we’ve sure been having fun,” the older woman responded.

Her daughter smiled. She didn’t chime in with what they had been doing all day. It didn’t matter. They’d been having fun. There wasn’t a need for more details.

Every once in a while, my husband says I’m being an Eeyore. And he’s usually right. But I’m trying to be more of a Pooh.

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

Today might be Monday, but that’s okay.

It’s my favorite day–because it’s the only day I’ve got today.



12 thoughts on “Dementia and the Present Moment

  1. It’s been a hard lesson to learn. I tend to be the same way. Now I truly live one day at a time and I don’t make plans too far ahead. That being said, I do try to have something to look forward to. That helps a lot.

    Today is going to be what you make it, so make it a good one.


  2. Thank you for this. My mom just died after a four year struggle with vascular dementia. We tried with a retirement lodge and assisted living and visiting a lot but after two years of her breaking her arm three times and falling and cracking her head open twice and living with her for weeks to take care of her and going to endless fracture clinics, we realized that a nursing home was the best option available. Fortunately she had the sense to tell us before we got to that point that she did not want to ever live in one of our homes, that if she needed daily care that she wanted to go to a nursing home and we were fortunate in finding one that was a good one. Not a perfect one, but a good one. She just died and it was peaceful in her own bed with me beside her playing her music. My siblings and I don’t regret placing her there at all. She had alarms on her bed and in her wheelchair when she was still able to move independently and she had PSW’s who loved her. They were sometimes overwhelmed with work, but they loved her and did their best. I’m retired and live three hours away but came every other week for three days. I don’t really know if she realized I was there, but I realized she was there and like you said in another article, I don’t remember all the things we did when I was a child but it went into making me who I was and if she was happier when I was there that was worth it. The other reason I felt was very important to visit is that the staff knew I knew what was going on. I’d speak to them all and make a point of checking her clothes and cleaning her glasses and seeing if we needed to buy her anything. She was a wonderful mother. I’m so grateful to have had her in my life.


    1. You have such a wonderful perspective. And I would say that no nursing home is a perfect one, but I’m happy that you were able to find a good one. My sympathies on the loss of your mother. She was obviously a kind, loved, and smart woman.


  3. Amen and amen, Elaine!! Thank you so much for this reminder. I have literally heard my sibling use the phrase “she won’t remember anyway” with regard to my mom and it makes my blood boil. For the last five years I’ve been using the hashtag #makingmomentswithmom on Instagram to chronicle our time together, even though I knew Mom wouldn’t remember our adventures minutes after they were over. My goal was always to make her happy in the moment, and I snapped as many pictures as I could of those glimpses of joy. Those moments are now treasures for me to look back upon, and every one of those moments held value. Every.Single.One. 🙂


  4. The moment is really the only thing any of us are guaranteed. The memory may disappear within minutes, but the FEELING that moment evokes will last, and you can hold the memory for the both of you.

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  5. Wonderful and so, so important! No matter how much effort I put into dinner, or how much she enjoyed it, inevitably by 9 PM she’s asking, “Did we have supper?” I used to let it get to me, feeling disheartened that I’d tried to give her a delicious meal that she just completely forgot. I don’t anymore, let it get to me. I still work to make sure every dinner is special. Thank you for this.


  6. I believe that this is so important. My Mum and my friend’s Mum have no recollection of our visits but enjoy them when we are there. Please don’t stop visiting people because they can’t remember – I have very fond memories of my Mum and some special times together even if she doesn’t remember them.

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  7. Totally agree with the importance of living in the moment, and enjoying it for what it is, not for what can be remembered. I hope to have regular visitors, when I have to go into residential care, I am sure they would bring me pleasure, whether I remember it or not.

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