Rufus and I have been visiting the dementia care facility every week for the past 8 months. Most of our visits are routine, we see the same people and often have the same conversations. Our visit last week was anything but ordinary, and while Rufus brought a great deal of comfort to a family in need, the experience has left an indelible mark on me.
The visit began as usual with a quick greeting to the front desk staff and the administrators who have offices in the front lobby. After entering the secured door, we walked towards the recreation room where the residents gather during the day for activities, snacks, and socializing. It is evident from the smiles we get when we walk into the room that some of Rufus' biggest fans recognize us, and the staff has told us that even this small bit of recognition is a sign that we are having a significant impact on their emotional well being with out visits. I put Rufus in Ms. S's lap and did a little glad handing with Guy (the resident ladies man) and Joe who were working a puzzle nearby.
Rufus and I would normally spend our entire hour in this room. Rufus spends 10-15 minutes with any resident who wants some time and I try to chat up anyone who seems interested in talking. The Activities Director (AD), a robust polish women in her early 50's with a thick accent, is often in the room coordinating activities: singing, dancing, and doing everything she can to bring some joy into the building. I am always impressed with how much love and tenderness she shows to everyone in the room.
After Rufus and I had said hello to all the usual suspects and were getting ready to leave, the AD asked if she could speak to me in the hall for a moment. Once there, she told me there was a female resident, Ms. J who absolutely loved dogs, but was bed bound so Rufus had never met her. Sadly she was on her last few hours of life, unable to move or communicate, surrounded by a few family members waiting for the inevitable to arrive. She asks if I would be willing to take Rufus into her room for a short visit; that is an impossible request to deny.
To Be Continued....