There is a beautiful and quiet woman at the Mansion, I don’t care to give her name. I went to her room to visit with Red, and I noticed the walls were completely bare.
I was planning to bring in a painting to hang there.
I took her portrait with her permission, but will not use it.
I noticed there was some art and a few photographs in a pile on the floor. I had a painting to bring for her wall.
A few days later I came into the Mansion and she was sitting on a sofa near the door, she had a small suitcase with her, and she seemed to be expecting someone, planning a trip. She waved to me and Red, and said goodbye.
When I left that day, she was back in her room.
I came to recognize this, I had seen it before, in some memory care facilities. Red and I have been doing dementia work for some time, you learn to listen and meet them where they are.
This very gentle women – I will call her S – was going somewhere.
“Where are you going?,” I asked.
“I’m going home,” she said, my son is coming to get me. “Everything is all packed up, I’m all set,” she said, “I wonder if he is late.”
A staff member came up to us, and sat down. They both chatted for a couple of minutes about S and her home, S. said she enjoyed the Mansion so much, but her family wanted her at home, they insisted upon it.
Of course, said the staff member, “they must be very eager for you to come home. It looks like they’re a little late. Why don’t we go wait in your room, or go to the activity room and see your friends until they get here. They will be glad to see you also.”
The aide took S’s suitcase and the two of them walked back down the hall.
A few minutes the aide returned and smiled. “She waits every morning for her son to come,” but she has no family that we know of. She has no visitors.”
The aide said that S always packs her things – including her wall hangings – and is ready to leave in the morning. She is aways ready to go. If you put something on the wall, the said, she will just pack it up.
They suggest doing something else while she waits, and she always agrees, then forgets about going home until the next morning.
The next time I visited, she was sitting in the same spot with her suitcase. “While you’re waiting,” I suggested, “let’s go for a walk with Red,” and she happily agreed. “They must be late,” she said, “my son is very busy.” We walked around the side of the Mansion, there are beautiful places to walk there.
She told me all about her house, her cat, her garden, her kitchen. She had a lot of things she had to do there, she said.
I think home is something you never really forget or stop missing, no matter how much one loves where they are now. Home has so much meaning and some of the residents never really stop believing they will go back one day.
Memory sometimes fades, but not the idea of home. Home is not something you forget.
S believes she is going home every day.
We went onto the porch – it was warm in the sun – and then back into the Mansion and down the hall. S said she was going to read, and then take a nap. She gave Red a hug.
There is no reason to hang a painting on the wall.