How to Say Good-Bye
by Stephanie “Teffie” Landmann, COTA/L,
PAC Support Mentor, Coach, and Trainer
What comes to mind when you read the following Maya Angelou quote?
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I think of my grandmother. When I visited her, she would always wave good-bye at the end of our visit. When I was little, she would wave from the balcony of her third-floor apartment as we drove by. When I was an adult, she would wave from her front porch as I drove off.
Then she got vascular dementia. She forgot who I was. She forgot what I said, but she still waved good-bye. COVID requirements shifted us to only be able to see each other from two different sides of a window. She would sit on the edge of her bed while I stood outside. The separation made our social interaction even more complicated. I did my best to mime with visual cues how I liked her shirt. She did her best to understand my sweater was nice. Again, she didn’t know who I was and didn’t understand what I said. She did know how I made her feel, because she waved good-bye from the window as I drove away.
Have you experienced something like this with someone you know living with dementia?
Why do people forget people and the things that are said, but remember the feelings? The scientific reason is that feeling is stored in a different place in the brain, than names or speech comprehension. Another reason is that our social interaction shapes the rest of that interaction.
Think about your interaction with people living with dementia, family, and staff. Do you treat each new interaction as a way to make someone feel connected? What are some things to do to set us up for a connection? It wasn’t until months after the last wave good-bye from my grandmother that I realized that she was setting the foundation for our next social interaction to be a close connection.
What do you do to start or end a social interaction? What do you want to try differently? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next month. This is Teffie waving good-bye.