Two ladies came through the dementia simulation a few weeks ago. They were in their late 60’s or maybe early 70’s, and they arrived together. I thought they might be sisters, but as it turns out they were friends.
They were wonderful guests. They asked great questions relating to why people with dementia do what they do. They inquired about how one might deal with specific dementia-related issues. From the conversation, I was certain that both of their husbands had dementia, even though they did not directly tell me this.
Toward the end of the session, I asked the women who had talked the most what kind of dementia her husband had.
She smiled gently and said, “Honey, my husband doesn’t have dementia. I don’t even have a husband.”
I apologize for my confusion. I followed up with “So does one of your loved ones have dementia?”
She responded, “Her husband has dementia. And I am her friend.”
She reached over and squeezed her friend’s shoulder.
“What a great friend you are,” I said.
The women smiled. They explained that they had grown up together in a different state and gone their separate ways after high school. When one’s friend developed dementia, her friend moved to across the state to be closer.
She had never married or had children. She was retired. She rented an apartment. It sounded like she spent a lot of her time hanging out at a memory community.
For her friend.
I’ve been thinking about friendship. I have been thinking about how grateful I am for the friendships in my life. Friendships that exist in a good times and bad times, and in times where things are both good and bad all at once. I’ve always gone for quality instead of quantity with friends, and that’s served me well.
After visiting with these ladies and thinking about how much I value my own friends, I started thinking about those who don’t have strong friendships.
What if you have a crisis in your life, and you turn around for some support, and no one is there? In my field, we talk about formal supports like the Alzheimer’s Association, meals on wheels, and counseling. But what about those informal supports, like friends and neighbors? I don’t think all the formal supports in the world can make up what having supportive friends means to a person.
I like to have application in each blog post, like an action step or a suggestion. A way of changing something to improve yourself or the world. Or even just a take-home message.
But I don’t know what to offer here except this…
Friendship is a pretty amazing gift. In this world with so many billions of people, you run into a few that you enjoy and decide to find a way to see them more. And they make you happier when you are happy. And they make you feel less alone when you’re sad.
Maybe one uproots their life to be close to you. Or maybe you just have a glass of wine once in a while. In this day and age, maybe you just send them encouraging texts every few days.
But, friendship, it’s pretty cool.
After writing this post but before publishing it, I got a text from a childhood friend. My BEST childhood friend. Her dad is struggling and she wanted to get my input on nursing home placement. I had an open Sunday, so I drove an hour to visit with her. We talked about her dad. We talked about other things. I got to spend time with her kids.
When we were six years old, we had the chicken pox at the same time. (Yeah, I am old enough that I had chicken pox.) Not only did we get to stay home from school, we got to play together all day.
Today we talked about our parents’ health issues and my chronic nerve pain and how her mom hasn’t kept up with technology. And I made a spreadsheet of potential nursing home options for her dad.
Yeah, friendship is pretty cool.
Before signing off today, I have a very special thank you to Rebecca at www.rebeccaleighdesigns.com.
Rebecca volunteered to design a logo for our dementia simulation house–PRO BONO. I cannot say enough about how amazing she was to work with, and I totally recommend her.
From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate you “getting us!”