the memory ward


architecture daylight door entrance

Photo by Erkan Utu on

I have always wanted to be a fly on the wall in many situations or places. Mostly to do with my kids classroom or their groups of friends….the usual stuff like that. This week I have gotten to be that fly on the wall in a setting I never saw myself in. When Brent had told me our next painting job was in a memory ward I didn’t think much of it. I knew residents would be around while we were painting but I never knew how much we would experience only being a fly on the wall. I say that as in they know we are there but not really, and we are always a new person each day and each encounter. Its like we aren’t there to them anyway, they see us but don’t know us or remember us….

We have watched and listened as we paint to so much in 5 days I come home overwhelmed. Like being in a very busy nursery all day but not being able to help….its a weird thing. You enter a code to get in of course and from there on in its quite contained. Each person has their story and their things they do….there are ones that wander all day, the ones that sleep all day, the ones who yell, the physical ones, the ones who are generally happy, the scowling ones, the scary ones, and any other category there is one someone falls under it.

Since its a memory unit there are many surprises in each day. At first it was comical, what they said to each other, their quick retorts, the ramblings about things that were not there….then sadness comes realizing how bad Alzheimers is.

Fast forward a few days… floor with new residents. Again new comics on the scene. One lady has Brent and I giggling all day. The things she yells from her room are hilarious and she is just well fun to be around. As I walked by her room she summoned me in as she does to everyone that passes. Shaking her sock at me she said “would you help me put this on”? I couldn’t say no so I dropped my stuff and helped her out. She was so frail and wanted to pay me for the service. I had told her the “thank you” was enough. A few minutes later she is asking someone to come in because she needs to get her 2 pies out of the oven! Her stories never end. She decided to stay in bed as we painted her room, many more laughs later she told me I was really good at my job, but Brent not so much….she said I wouldn’t ever tell him that… he is 3 feet from me :0

I find it interesting how this group of people are living their last years. They are eerily similar to their first years. Lots of singalongs, diaper changes, temper tantrums, scheduled snack breaks, playing with instruments,s the list goes on. Its not their choice of course, it is just how their life has played out.

Ive watched the nurses and CNA’s care for the residents. Day in and day out of repeating the same things, answering their questions with lies….atleast I thought they were just lies. Example: Resident asks CNA ” where is Henry?”. CNA responds “he is at the store, He will be back in 10 minutes.” Resident nods and accepts answer. This is repeated day in and day out with anyone they ask about. I kept wondering why on earth don’t they just tell them the truth? Then I began to see….if you tell them the truth it could upset them, they often are looking for their parents. You are eliminating a potential sad scene which wouldn’t serve any purpose.  The thing is the resident doesn’t follow up with Why is Henry still gone after 10 minutes?  They don’t remember they even asked. It never comes  like they never said it….thus the fibs.

Since painting wall after walls is mindless I always have lots of time to think. Usually we would listen to music but we are trying to be less noise in a place that is noise. Instead we listen to all the ever changing conversations around us.

Ill end with this…some of ladies have dolls that they believe and act like are their real babies. Its absolutely priceless to watch them coddle over the baby. Then just like that another mom pipes in how precious she is and how she is such a cute baby! The caretakers are gentle with the dolls and the whole scene is sweet, sad but still sweet.



2 thoughts on “the memory ward

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog. I do respite for a couple ,where the wife has Dementia ,every Friday morning. It’s really sad ,since she has been a very good friend over many years. How we need God’s love and grace on this journey of life at every stage!


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