Years ago, on my first day on the ward of a hospice facility, an elderly woman named Cecilia arrived. The nurses told me she had dementia, was incapable of speaking, and because she couldn’t understand anything people around her were saying, there was no reason to talk to her.
I entered her room and sat down next to her. Because I’d seen a film called “Peege,” when I was an undergraduate student, I knew that people with dementia might respond well when they are spoken to directly. I wanted to treat her with respect so I introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Ginni,” I said, and asked if I could hold her hand and sit with her for a while.
“Yes, Ginni. I’d like that,” she replied.
Not only was I delighted to hear her voice, I was surprised that she’d heard my name and pronounced it correctly since most people think I’ve said Jenny or Jeanie when I first introduce myself. This moment went against everything the nurses had assumed would happen. It’s likely that they’d told other people coming into contact with Cecilia the same thing they’d told me thus setting her up for encounters filled with silence. [Read more…]