“I know he’s my baby and all, but I just really think he’s beautiful,” I remember telling Mom. She smiled, looking at my newborn baby, “Well, you know…every old crow thinks hers is the blackest.”
After the birth of each of our babies, Mom spent a few days with us to help take care of the baby. She stayed busy cooking meals, washing clothes, and making sure I rested when the baby slept. Caregiving was her calling, and the bonus was that she loved babies! Her calm nature filled our home with sweet comfort.
So about thirty years later, we were puzzled by Mom’s changing demeanor. Much like others in the nursing home, she couldn’t communicate, but she was anxious, unsettled – grimacing as she looked into our eyes. I couldn’t stand to see her so fretful and was determined to figure out how to fix this for her.
Shortly after, when I heard someone say “Challenging behavior is due to an unmet need,” I realized…of course Mom had an unmet need! This woman who was always busy…the very best at taking care of others, now had nothing to do – no meals to cook, no groceries to buy, no stories to tell or children to tell them to.
I remembered noticing baby dolls at a nursing home I had visited long before. At the time, I didn’t understand why this was so, but the memory had been etched on my mind, safely filed away for this moment. I searched for more information on the topic, read several articles, both pro and con, and began my search for the perfect doll.
When we went for our next visit, my sudden case of cold feet surprised me. I was so afraid she would be offended when I gave her a toy! My husband wrapped the doll in a blanket and gave me a little pep talk as he gently placed the baby in my arms, suggesting that I simply act as if it were a real baby and then follow Mom’s lead.
Initially, she seemed glad to see us, but the mood quickly changed to worry and frustration. While we talked to her, I held the baby close to my chest, swaying side to side. Eventually, Mom leaned forward for a closer look, and her eyes sparkled when I asked if she would like to hold my baby. As I bent over and gently placed the baby in her arms, Mom’s frail fingers caressed the baby’s face, she whispered in her ear, kissed her cheek, and patted her bottom as she rocked her chair.
The very moment the baby was placed in her arms, Mom’s need was met. She had a baby which meant there was much to do – diapers to change, songs to sing, and bottles to warm. For years to come, the baby stayed close to her Mama, and the look in Mom’s eyes told me that she thought her crow was the blackest.
Thanks for spending time here, Tracie
Special Note: This is my story that was published in Teepa Snow’s Online Dementia Journal. More of our story is in my book, Dancing Around the Chaos.
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