I know that you shouldn’t have favorites, but sometimes it just can’t be helped. When we first opened The Geneva Suites, we had a gal named Ruth move into our Lighted Oak home. Boy oh boy, did she teach me a lot! With the cognitive changes she was experiencing, she had quite a bit of paranoia. For this reason, she instantly did not like some people. One of those people happened to be my husband, Scott. Ruth would see him and sneer, “You, you are no good.” Then, she would look at me and exclaim, “Better watch that one.” I would shake my head and say, “No he is a good guy.”
We worked hard to help Ruth feel at home. For instance, we placed her curio cabinet in the dining room so she could see it and feel at ease while she had meals with us. She loved to walk and get the mail. I would often put some of my children’s artwork in the mailbox so that Ruth could get a “letter” many times a day. Slowly, she began to see Geneva Suites as her home.
On her little deck, Ruth would hold my hand and lean on me as we sat and watched the world go by. Sometimes we would talk about her past, about her kids that she loved, the sports they were involved in, or her husband. He was in the fire department, and she was so very proud of him. Other days Ruth would talk about her dog, a Dalmatian, who was very smart and very fast. On hard days, we would talk about how scary it was not to know things, “Are you for me or against me?” I would look deep into Ruth’s blue eyes and softly smile, “I’m for you.” Often after a long stare, she would smile a little too. “I believe you. I’m scared, I don’t even know me anymore.”
Those days were hard, and unfortunately, as her disease progressed, the memories became less clear and her world became smaller. She was less worried about trying to leave and more concerned about what she could and could not remember. “I’m bad. I’m a dumb-dumb.” It was so hard to hear her self-deprecate. One of our fantastic care partners came up with an idea, “Let’s give Ruth an affirmation that she can repeat over and over.” This is what it said, “Today is a good day. I love who I am! I accept the things I can’t change! I’m 90 years old, and I’m proud of myself! I am grateful for good health, my body, and my mind. I continue to get stronger every day. I am good.” This affirmation did amazing things for her. Ruth would look into the mirror and state this. After she held her head higher, and she would stand a little taller.
We had a small keyboard player for her and often after her affirmation, she would play. Many times, it was hymns or quick little children’s songs. One morning, we had a resident who had just passed at the house in the wee hours of the night. With her player, Ruth began to play “How Great Thou Art.” It was beautiful and so touching to the family as they were finishing their last visit with their dad. Giving the family a hug, the daughter said to me, “I don’t know that I have ever heard her play that song; funny it was Dad’s favorite.” With a big tear, she hugged me again and went into her dad’s room.
I went and sat down next to Ruth; she leaned into me as she finished the last verse. “That was wonderful, Ruth.” She looked into my eyes again for a long time, “I am good?” The question in her voice tore at my heart a little, “Yes Ruth, yes you are.”
“I love you,” she said, putting her head on my shoulder. “I love you too,” I echoed, and I truly did. We sat there for a long time in comfortable silence.
I miss Ruth greatly. After over three years of caring for her in our home, she quietly passed. I treasure the moments that I had with her, the wisdom she shared both with her stories, and the lessons of caring for her we learned as her disease progressed.
I love that what we created allowed her sweet soul to be cared for with dignity and respect and, most of all, love.