Steve and I walk into the memory care facility to see my husband Bob standing at the kitchen counter where he usually interacts with the staff, but he is facing a worker and the director of residences, who is seated on a chair receiving a neck massage from the worker. "Hey, Phyllis, do you want to be next?" Maria invites.
As I stop to greet them, Steve walks around the group and is at Bob's side, who turns toward Steve and says, "I am happy right here."
We all hear him, we all repeat his words, smiling. He has made us all very happy indeed. Maria explains that Bob has just had a massage; he smells from peppermint oil which I discover when he spots me and crooks his finger toward me that I should come to stand where he is.
Bob kisses me hello, holds both of my hands and says clearly, "So what are we going to do now?"
The positive interaction Bob has experienced has organized him so that his speech is clearer, his gaze is steady, his mood is light and his willingness/ability to relate have improved. We go for a short walk outdoors where the weather is too chilly to be without his jacket. As we return to the building, Bob says, "I smell peppermint," but he has forgotten the massage.
He chooses to get his jacket and his cap to walk further outdoors and then asks to go "get something to eat, the three of us," although he has recently been very reluctant to get into the car or to be very far from his home. Steve invites Bob to enter the back seat of the car where he is already seated, holds Bob's hand to reassure him as I walk around the car to the driver's seat, and Bob successfully accompanies us to the restaurant and eats his breakfast-at-dinnerime meal.
Have we reduced our expectations so low that this day truly makes us happy? No, this day shows there can be joy even with Alzheimer's disease, both for the patient and for his family.