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Alzheimer's

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Alzheimer's: She Wanted Two Kisses
By Gwendolyn de Geest, RN, BSN, MA 
(Page 1 of 4)

Rose sits in the lounge chair. The morning rays of sunlight shine on her face, illuminating her once bright, blue eyes. A person greets her, “Good morning Rose.” Rose doesn’t respond, doesn’t recognize this person who is greeting her.

Morning follows morning, day follows day at Memory Care Manor where Rose now lives. Family photographs hang on the wall, persistence of a memory long ago. Rose sits waiting, waiting for Jack, her husband, who is coming for a visit. And when he enters the lounge, prepared to assist his wife of 57 years with her breakfast, Rose displays no apparent recognition of him.

Rose remains motionless, eyes fixated. This could mean that she no longer knows her husband. Or it could mean that she doesn’t wish to violate the etiquette of Memory Care Manor with an enthusiastic greeting, which may be interpreted by some as inappropriate. Or it could mean that the acceptable response to a “Good morning,” from Jack, is a dead-eyed stare.

However, Jack finds encouragement in this lack of reaction. He continues to prepare Rose to eat her breakfast. Jack is not surprised. He knows that Rose has Alzheimer disease. What Jack doesn’t comprehend, is why his darling wife of 57 years, no longer speaks to him.

Jack lives close by Memory Care Manor. This day, following his visit with Rose, Jack visits the public library. He has decided to tackle head-on, his own research of learning to speak Alzheimer disease. In the library that day, Jack learns that in 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimer examined a slice of brain tissue under the microscope, identifying plaques and tangles surrounding the brain cells, a hallmark of Alzheimer disease. As a result, there may be mental deterioration. Jack learned that the person affected, his Rose, may no longer be able to communicate as they previously could. Due to the mental deterioration, the language center of the brain may be affected. Consequently, the person has difficulty understanding, or being understood. Jack begins to realize that Rose is doing the best she can.

The next morning, Jack arrives early at Memory Care Manor, armed and ready with his new found knowledge. Rose is sitting in her familiar place in the corner of the lounge at Memory Care Manor, motionless, waiting, waiting, waiting.

When Jack enters the room with a cheery “Good morning,” he makes a special point of warmly embracing his wife. He then asks the caregiver if she might play a soft piece of classical music (Rose’s favorite) on the stereo. Jack moves Rose’s lounge chair to a quieter corner of the lounge, removed from the other noises and distractions. He then brings Rose’s breakfast tray and sits with her, preparing to feed her breakfast.

“Here my Rose, have some porridge,” says Jack, offering a spoonful to Rose’s lips. No reaction. This does not discourage Jack. He takes Rose’s hand and holds it, as he offers a second spoonful of porridge. This time, Jack notes a special little smile around Rose’s mouth as she swallows the cereal. Something else he notices, is that Rose’s body language is more relaxed. She is listening to the classical music softly playing in the background.

Jack leans forward, closer to Rose and says, “Does my Rose love me?” At first, no response. And then, Rose also leans forward, puckering up her lips for a kiss. Jack responds in kind with a kiss. Once again, Rose puckers up her lips and leans forward. Jack smiles and says, “My Rose wants two kisses.”

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