Helen was eighty-seven when she was enrolled in hospice with dementia. Before visiting Helen in the nursing home I called her grandson, Josh, for information about Helen, about her life; some stories, some memories that I could use to connect with Helen when I visited her. Josh reminisced; “Us grandkids always called her Nonie. She worked at clothing stores, but I think the only reason she worked was so she could buy things for us kids. She always bought us grandkids what we wanted. We would go to Nonie and she would give us the money for those one-hundred-dollar Nikes. And she collected that blue glass; and every time a grandchild was born she would buy a blue glass bluebird. And I remember the cookie jar at her house; I remember her making cinnamon rolls and no-bake cookies when dad and I visited; because she knew that dad liked them. And she is the one who got me drinking tea. She was the glue that held the family together. After my grandpa retired they traveled the world and someone bought them a globe and they put pins in all the places they’d been. And ask her how my aunt got her nickname, “Toot” or “Tootsie”.”

I’ve discovered that one of my missions as a hospice Social Worker, working with people with dementia, is to explore and uncover what remains; much like a person who returns to their house after a fire and searches through the ashes and rubble. And my goal is to pull out memories so the person can enjoy them all over again; that they might enjoy the moment. After all, isn’t the moment the only thing we have for sure in this world?

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