Go Visit Grandma!

During the last few years of my Mom’s illness, there were times when visiting with her was very emotionally taxing for me and my siblings. Not being recognized by one’s own parent hurts. That pain discourages one from visiting, and it’s all too easy to rationalize not visiting by telling oneself “what’s the point – Mom won’t remember anyway?”

I was spared a lot of that process, since I lived near Mom and could visit her frequently. Mom always smiled when she saw me, so I knew there was some kind of recognition even if she couldn’t remember my name. That smile made it all worth it.

I’ve recently come across some research (via an NPR piece) that sheds light the ’emotional memory’ of demential patients, and how it lasts even when factual memory does not.

You can read the original study here. Here a few salient takeaways from the study’s lead author, Edmarie Guzmán-Vélez:

You know, all of these people that say it doesn’t matter if I don’t visit my grandma because she won’t remember -and it just shows it does matter. Our actions do matter.

So go spend time with your relative  who suffers from dementia! You will make them happy, even if they can’t remember why.

As Ms Guzmán-Vélez says about her own study:

…it gives me that extra reward I guess to know that every thing that I do is impacting them. And it does make me try to be a better person with them or try to give them good experiences ’cause I know that will make them happy and that happiness will last for a long time.

I’ll second that from my own experience with Mom. The joy I felt knowing I’d brightened her day and made her happier went a very long way to erasing the pain I felt watching her illness inexorably diminish her.

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