J is for Joy
Two days ago I wrote about “happy things” in my life that kept me going through sad times. Happy moments can take place in the dementia unit, too, moments of joy that lighten and give color to days that are often monotonal.
I wrote about Bob, the man with the lovely singing voice. The first time I heard him, I was sitting a table in the dining area with my mother. He was standing, leaning on his walker, in the space between the dining and living room areas. He’s a tall man and pretty much commanded the space. He looked downward, paying no attention to his surroundings, and began to sing very softly. I soon recognized “How Great Thou Art,” a hymn that I love. I started singing softly along with him, and soon a few other residents and CNAs joined in, too. I felt it as a transcendent moment, one that brought tears to my eyes. His voice was quiet and a little shaky, but it was easy to imagine how good it must once have been. A few people applauded when he finished, and he started in again singing “Wind Beneath My Wings.” But I don’t believe he was responding to the applause; he was in his own world, one that connected with his past and with God, and one that absorbed him for those few minutes.
Then there are the games: trivia, playing catch with a huge plastic ball, and always, always Bingo. I never understood the popularity of Bingo with elderly people, but they respond to it and look forward to it. There’s a Bingo game after supper nearly every night. No prizes are awarded to winners, only the joy of being involved in something and getting out of their own minds for a while.
Once a week there’s a flower delivery and a chance for residents to help in trimming and arranging them. There are walks in the enclosed garden in the warm weather, benches to sit on. My mother’s roommate picks blossoms from plants and bushes and gives them to my mother or puts them in her hair.
For most residents, the greatest joy is receiving visits from their families and friends. Their faces bloom and they come alive in a way they don’t otherwise. I’ve seen people who constantly complain or seem very confused become calm and lucid with their visitors.
Joy isn’t only for people with sound minds and bodies; it’s a blessing that even those with very few other capacities can share in if they’re given the chance.