Lois was just leaving the shower room of the nursing home, bundled up in her brown and blue bathrobe. She was talking to her caregiver about what a fine shower she had just enjoyed. Then she saw the family standing together in the hallway of the nursing home. “She is crying” Lois said pointing at one of the women. “And she is too,” Lois continued, “They all are crying.”

Because Lois has been affected by her Alzheimer’s disease, she no longer follows social conventions when speaking. If something occurs to her, she just says it. The mother of these young adults had just died, and Lois could clearly read their body language. As they stood there with arms around each other, supporting each other and crying, Lois could tell something was very wrong.

The ability to read a caregiver’s expression and body language remains long after the person can no longer speak to you. A look of anger or disgust is rarely missed by the confused person. That caregiver who is given to smiling, singing, whistling and always has a pleasant expression is the caregiver worth their weight in gold.  Because the confused elder, he or she is caring for, is in the moment and can be made happy by a happy caregiver.

This was a great reminder for all of us working in the Nursing community. Lois spoke for all of the residents who couldn’t that morning. All of the residents could read the body language of those family members. They could see the grief and recognize their pain. Because they can’t tell us what they see doesn’t mean they don’t see it and understand. The person with advanced Alzheimer’s disease just needs a Lois sometimes to remind us.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing