Human beings continually amaze me.
They amaze me in how inhumane and cruel they can be.
And they amaze me in how wonderful they are.
A few weeks ago, someone amazed me in how wonderful they were.
I was doing a presentation at a dementia conference. The vast majority of attendees were professional or family care partners. As I was chatting with people before my presentation, I asked some of the participants what they wanted to learn.
I want to learn to understand my husband better.
I want to understand what my mom is going through.
I want to learn how to calm my residents when they get upset.
I want to have a friend with dementia over for dinner and I need to know how to make it the best possible experience for her.
Wait. Rewind. What was that last one?
An older gentleman was attending a dementia conference for the purpose of learning how to make a dinner party more enjoyable for a friend with dementia.
That’s it. That’s the whole reason he spent an entire day at this conference.
He didn’t have a family member with dementia. He didn’t suspect he had dementia.
He just wanted to make a pleasurable evening for someone living with dementia and happened to see the conference advertised. He signed up.
Here was the story…he and his partner had been friends with another couple for decades. The wife had Alzheimer’s and the disease seemed to be progressing quickly. He still wanted to spend time with them. He still wanted to invite them over. He just wasn’t sure of a few things.
What do I do if she doesn’t know my name?
Does she have any dietary restrictions?
Is it okay if we have music playing?
Do we stop her if she’s telling a story and rambling on and on?
Is it okay for her to have a glass of wine?
All good questions.
We chatted for a bit after my presentation. In short, I told him to keep inviting his friends over. I said he should be prepared to roll with the punches. I said he shouldn’t pressure them to stay too long. I told him that his friend could still enjoy his company even if she couldn’t remember his name. I also suggested he work on getting his friend’s husband out to go fishing or have a few beers without his wife, if possible.
He seemed confident when he left. He seemed excited about the opportunity to have his friends over for dinner when others might be excluding them for social events.
As he walked away, I just shook my head.
People are amazing.