Grandma with dementia: Thank you for still being there

"Dear Grandma,

thank you for still being there Thank you that life gives us such beautiful, intimate moments as yesterday. Thank you for your dementia being a little considerate at times and not letting me forget you. And even if one day you should forget my name: People you love are firmly anchored in our hearts – even this disease cannot change that.

When I came to your home at noon yesterday, I pressed the doorbell button on the door. You press it so that your employees know that none of you are exploiting and putting yourself at risk and that someone who knows what is going to enter the facility. You have been there since February and yes, I know a little bit now. I know Julia, your very nice reference sister, I know a few of your roommates and I know your daily routine a little.

There is a deep midday rest over your facility. I sneak across the hall, knock softly on your room door and slip in quickly. "Hello Grandma, it's me," I say in the small hallway so you don't get scared.

"Hello, little mouse," I hear quietly from your bed and you don't believe how relieved I am every time you say that. It shows that you still recognize me, even if I haven't been with you for a few weeks now.

"Are you so tired too?" You ask. "Come to my bed, under my covers."

I go to your toilet for a moment and think: How is it going to be in your bed again after 30 years? I admit, I also check how it smells.

Almost a bit astonished I find that you are warm and soft and very fragrant and crawl under your covers. The memories of both of us are immediately back. Memories of my childhood, in which I was often allowed to spend the night with grandma and grandpa and then slept in the crevice.

You had parade cushions back then and the duvet was so thick and fluffy that I never saw another afterwards. You then shook the bedspread for me each time so that the feathers were distributed well. The bed linen was always white and the cotton was of such good quality that it was almost indestructible. And if a small hole did come in, you stuffed it so carefully that you could hardly see it.

All of these things came back to me immediately when I was back in bed with you after so many years and I immediately became completely relaxed and a little sleepy.

"When I found out that I was going to be a grandma, I immediately started knitting. We only have one grandchild," you say in my thoughts. "It's a shame, just one."

"Yes, but better one than none," I say. "There are also many people who want children and grandchildren and don't have any."

"We had 6 pieces. 2 less would have been enough" – by that you mean yourself and your siblings.

"Yes," I say, "but when a child is born, you have to be happy too. You always said that."

You immediately agree with me. I don't know how often we have had this dialogue, always with the same words.

But I am grateful that you are there, that we are cuddling together in your bed here and that you are tenderly caressing my arm as I talk.

I am telling you that today we are going to Aunt Paula's birthday and that she is 95 years old today. Immediately you start to sing: "Good luck and blessings!" And I sing along. You loved to sing all your life, but now in the years with dementia, you have developed into a living song book. You will immediately find a song for almost every keyword. You have often surprised us with this and made us laugh. Only when you sing Hitler songs are we not so happy and I sometimes manage to react to it less patiently. Most of the time, however, redirecting to another song works quite well.

Because it's so nice to sing, we still sing: "Today it can rain, storm or snow." Although this is more of a recent song, you can also memorize it. When we are singing "Let her live high", my mom comes into the room. I get up out of bed and mom pulls you up from the edge of the bed to help you get up. She goes to the bathroom with you and puts you on the toilet.

It is still a little bit unusual for me to see how well and naturally their movements have become. You have only been here in the home since February. I am very happy because I have the impression that your relationship has changed again.

You are happy that she visits you so often and although your short-term memory no longer works, you can feel exactly what she is doing for you and thank you for it.

In the evening after your 95th birthday, mom and I bring you back to the home. Mama meets an employee in the corridor and talks to her while we are already going to your room. You only run very shaky, despite the walker. The whole afternoon drinking coffee with the many guests was very exhausting for you and you only want to go to bed. I take off your shoes and stockings and get your nightie out of the bathroom.

"Do I still have my own apartment?" You ask me. "No, this is your apartment now," I answer. "I have to stay here until I die?" You ask, looking around the room. "Yes," I say. "Is that bad for you? You always say that you like it here so much". "No, I really like it here," you say.

When I suggested brushing my teeth and going to the toilet, you went on strike and just wanted to go to bed. I'll help you and lift your legs in. You lie exhausted but completely satisfied and review the day again, as you have always done. I know you can't remember much of what was today. You say: "It was really really nice today."

The heart does not become demented and so you can clearly feel that it was a really nice day today. And I'm grateful for that too.

Grandma, thank you for being still there and giving me 20 minutes with you yesterday, safe under your warm blanket. "

About Tamara Ameling

With her company "Ameling moves" Tamara Ameling from Nordwalde offers dementia support and animal-assisted therapy. More information at

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