50 First Dates inspiration for dementia patients

One of my favorite Adam Sandler movies co-starring Drew Barrymore is interestingly called “50 First Dates.” In short, Barrymore’s character has recovered from an automobile accident, but with the exception of memories preceding the accident, forgets everything that occurs when she goes to sleep. Sandler woos her over fifty first dates, but makes his message stick when he produces a video with her friends and family for her to watch each morning.

In a terrific example of life imitating art, this concept has been successfully borrowed by Tamara Rusoff-Hoen who produced a video for her mother, Louisa Irving, a 94 year-old dementia patient. Below is a link to the Associated Press article written by Jim Fitzgerald of the Seattle Pi. She opens with a song in the video “Good morning, merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon?”

This song hit home with me, as my wife used to sing “You are my sunshine” to her mother who eventually died from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. She is now singing it periodically to my mother who we believe is limited to early stages of dementia.

With people living longer, we are seeing more struggle with dementia and even Alzheimer’s. Both are tough on the patient and the family, especially those closest to them. My mother knows my voice well, but sometimes when I visit from seven hours away, she forgets that I am her son. She is remembering a younger version of me. So, we are struggling with these issues as well, but hopefully not as extreme as with my mother-in-law.

I believe the “50 First Dates” video concept should be shared with everyone, as it is a great idea. In the below article, Robert Abrams, a geriatric psychiatrist notes the assurances this video can give to patients who feel “alone and at sea” and do not fully understand their circumstances. At a minimum, talk with your parents about these issues while they have their faculties. But, also help remind them of who they are and what they mean to you.

I will leave you with one quick story. When a friend dropped in to see her father with Alzheimer’s at a local long term memory care facility, she found him talking in the great room with others. So, she quietly sat down beside him. He eventually noticed her there and got excited and said “You are on our team.”  And, that is what we need to remind our loved ones of – we are on your team.


22 thoughts on “50 First Dates inspiration for dementia patients

  1. beautiful! it’s so hard when our loved ones fail to remember ‘us’ and our histories. it’s also great to have patience and love to overloook their forgetfulness and play our rolles but listening to them – and sometimes playing a stranger’s role, ‘hi, i’m lisa!’ and brightening their day in whatever role is needed.

    i hope that i get to see this movie..

  2. I’ve been where you are now. It is a journey so many will experience in one way or another. My own Mother’s peace came with me reading to her…and holding her hand. My thoughts are with you. Raye

    • Thanks Raye. I bet that was a comfort to you both. My wife and I just got through watching “Wild,” so it was powerful to see this woman played by Reece Witherspoon become the person her mother knew she could be, by walking the PCT up your way. We all must come to grips with our mother’s demise. My mother was a teacher before she retired and taught bible study fellowship for years, but is less coherent to study. One of my joys on my last visit was hearing her read a letter her mother sent her years before. I wanted her not to stop. All the best, BTG

  3. Note to Readers: When my mother-in-law stayed with us for five weeks before her older sister (who lived with her) passed away, we would take her to a small church, not dissimilar from the one she went to for many years. The ritual and pace of a small church service was soothing and comforting and she was at ease standing and greeting people at the right times. This was part of her team as well.

  4. This is an important post and you write it so thoughtfully. Your mother is blessed to have you and your wife in her life. Yes, it is a team, and when we are together on it then it is the best way. Many hugs

  5. Note to Readers: For those who have not seen “50 First Dates,” please do not expect “Casablanca.” This is a fun-filled comedy which includes a couple of Saturday Night Live cast members. Rob Schneider steals most of the scenes he is in. Yet, the story is poignant as is the idea to videotape a reminder of what happened for Drew Barrymore’s character.

  6. It’s awful to watch the progression of this disease, especially if it is happening in your own family. Did you see the film, I’m Still Alice? I wouldn’t say it’s an uplifting film because it is very true to life. But Alice’s determination to control her own destiny is really inspirational. Good luck with your mom.

  7. Note to Readers: A quick update. My mother has been diagnosed with Progressive Memory Disorder, possibly Alzheimer’s. She is now in an Assisted Living Facility and is coping well. She had fallen from dehydration due to a urinary tract infection. So, at the suggestion of the clinical nurses, we moved her to an ALF, while she could still cope. One nurse noted that people wait too long and the paranoia and mistrust of something news gets in the way and the move is harder. My mother harkens back to a college dorm room setting which she feels is where she is now. And, she loves to look at picture albums and read small books with verses, quotes, sayings, etc.

  8. Note to Readers: This post is seeing an uptick in readers the past few days. As a writer, this brings me joy. But, I think it is more due to the subject matter as an increasing number of people have parents and grandparents experiencing dementia or worse.

    As an update, my mother passed away on Christmas Day, 2016. She succumbed to heart failure, likely due to dehydration from a flu virus that hit her facility. Alzheimer’s hinders the ability for a person to take care of themselves. If there is a silver lining, she died before her memory prevented her from knowing anyone whatsoever. My mother was a teacher, bible study facilitator, crossword puzzles, and very organized. Her younger self would have been mortified to see her older self with dementia.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.