The common phrase that I'd heard since I was a child and the typical greeting that she gave to anyone that came by to see her. No one noticed that she couldn't remember anyone's names. It wasn't until we were looking at pictures one day and she said, "Well, that's a good-looking family. Who's that?" "That's our family, and that's you right there in front," we told her.
As time went by things became more apparent. The pots left on the stove. The laundry started but not finished. The repeated questions a few minutes apart. I remember shortly before she moved into the long term care facility, I went to visit her with my brother. She asked me how my grandparents were (her sister and brother-in-law who had passed away about 8 years prior). I was only 15 or 16 at the time, and I remember the sadness in her eyes as we reminded her that my grandparents had passed. "Oh yeah, I remember," she said. A few minutes later, she again asked about my grandparents. Knowing the distress it caused before, we simply smiled, and said, "they're doing just fine." "Oh, that's great sweetie," she said.
Over the next several years, she had a slow and steady decline. I was working at the hospital when she was admitted nearing her end stages. She wasn't eating or drinking well, and she was having recurrent episodes of dehydration and infections. She didn't even know her sisters at the time. I remember walking into her room as a lab assistant to see her smiling face and hearing, "hello, sweetie", and even though I knew she didn't know me, for a short period of time, she was still the same aunt I had known since childhood. Thankfully for us, dementia never took that away from her.
- Adam Merando, MD