Family Caregivers, Gram Helen's Story

Gram Has a Boyfriend at the Home ?!?

Well, isn’t that a bit of a surprise?  My 93 year old grandma lost her second husband more than 25 years ago, and never really dated anyone afterwards.  She has been living in the Memory Care Facility for 6 months…and now has a boyfriend.  She has dementia, as does he.


When my mom called to tell me this new development, I assured her that this is a good thing.  Just a couple of weeks ago I gave a speech on finding the joy even with dementia.  One of my ending remarks in the speech was about the need for human touch.  If Gram and her new gentleman enjoy each other’s company, it’s a good thing.  Mom informed me that the staff is concerned because they have been (gasp!) kissing in the hall.  Well, that’s a little hard to picture…but still OK.  I assured Mom that it is all good, and we should not try to interfere and ask the staff to stop this from happening.  If Gram is happy, let’s see how it goes.


So I went to visit Gram one evening.  I found her in the TV area.  On one couch was a sweet couple (they, too, have discovered love in the home…but they think they are each other’s spouses).  On the other couch Gram’s new love is resting on her shoulder.  When I pull up a chair to visit with them, he awakens and joins in the conversation.  Gram and I joke about something, and I tease that she is so shy.  She laughs and says to him “She says I’m so shy.”  He responds, “Shy looks good on you.” She giggles and touches his foot with hers.  I try not to be uncomfortable.  I know in my head that this is normal and OK…but it’s still just a little bit weird to see your grandmother flirting with someone!


I’ve thought before when I’ve visited the home in the evening that it is very much like living in a college dorm…with the girls moving from room to room to visit, sharing their treasures, trading clothes (OK, in this home they don’t know they are trading clothes…everything belongs to each of them, so they just think they are wearing their own stuff…whatever.)  This particular evening that thought strikes me again.  The conversation that we have, with Gram and her friend flirting back and forth reminds me of young love that happens so often in a dorm setting.


I spoke to a couple of the staff members who know Gram best.  They both told me that they were a little concerned at first (that the family would be upset, that things might get out of control), but the past week has been lovely.  Both Gram and her boyfriend used to roam and worry about going home.  Now they sit peacefully together, or they happily join exercise and other activities.  This new little love connection has brought some peace to the home.


We just celebrated Thanksgiving.  Mom went to get Gram for the festivities, and she did not want to leave her friend.  Mom said they’d have to leave him behind for the day, but she promised to bring Gram back in the evening.  They parted reluctantly.  When Mom took Gram back to the home, he greeted her with “Hello, my love.  You look beautiful today.”  And he kissed her.  Mom called me later and described the exchange, and then acknowledged that it was quite sweet.  Neither of Gram’s husbands had been that sweet and attentive in public, and didn’t she deserve that kind of love, even this late in life?


So we’re coming to terms with the idea that Gram has a boyfriend.  If she is not in the home, and you ask her about it, she’ll laugh at you and say “Certainly not!”  I know…she did that with me at Thanksgiving.  But if you visit her there, you’ll see that it’s true.  And you’ll see that it’s sweet.  And guess what?  It really is OK.


Love is in the air.