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On one never-to-be-forgotten day, we realized that even though the woman we loved seemed to have disappeared, she obviously enjoyed the company and expressions of love that family and friends brought to her.

Because we lived miles away from the care facility where Mother lived, we tried to visit several times a year. This helped to give the primary family caregivers a break from their dutiful daily visits. Mother was confined to a wheelchair, and no longer able to communicate verbally. On this particular day, we had arrived to help with the noon-hour meal. There was no smile as we entered, and no acceptance of either food or drink. Needless to say, mother was neither in a good mood nor able to tell us why.

We left the dining room with Mother, walked the corridors, sat in the sun room on a winter day, chatted, sat silent, but no response. After an hour or so, we offered her a drink of ginger ale which she surprisingly accepted. After a sip or two, her mood lightened, her smile returned, and she began to talk. There was no coherence to her sentences, but she smiled and smiled, and was obviously sharing an extremely funny story, the more she talked, the more she smiled and she laughed until tears were rolling down her cheeks.

The more she talked, the more we appreciated the humour of the moment, and the more we understood that the essential woman was still trapped in there.

As the ravages of dementia seemed to take away the person we once knew, that jolly moment deepened our appreciation for all the time and effort given by primary caregivers to ease the suffering, to alleviate the loneliness, and to attempt to restore the lost dignity of our loved one.

Contributed by Bob P, Son-in-law