Being playful can mean a few different things, and some are not desirable at all. A cat being playful with a mouse is not a desirable thing to watch, but that is what they instinctively do. Playful in childhood can be either good or bad depending on which side you’re on; the playing or the object of which one plays.
A child playing with a toy and is learning new skills is a good thing. Playing baby talk with an infant is fun and makes the child smile. Then there is a playful attitude that is another story. Children are playful and that is a fact. Here is another fact of playful; adults can be, need to be, and should be playful at times too. Our family was playful at times with the children and that should be normal within every family. There is another type of playful role that just happened. I was quick to latch on to it, and rolled with the punch. This did both my mother and I a world of good.
I discovered that at a certain stage of Alzheimer’s, when it appeared that there were no memories left at all within my mother’s mind I began doing something that I thought wouldn’t do any good, but I was close to tears and had nothing else to say. I began singing “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do….” To my astonishment my mother began to sing along as best she could. In those moments, we looked at each other and there was a spark of recognition once again in her eyes. Whether it was recognition of the song, or her momentary recognition that I was part of her life it didn’t matter. She had a smile on her face and that spark of recognition with a little sparkle in her eyes. For the rest of my visit, we did nursery rhymes. She was able to recall almost all of them. The sparkle in her eyes remained there, and her tight grip of my hand said it all.
Now that my husband has Dementia, we get a different kind of playful. We play like kids. We talk to each other as if we were kids. It raises both of our moods, and reduces some of the stress on my side and the frustration on his side because of lack of ability to get his thoughts across to me and gives him a chance to play within the safety of childhood.
When we play children he is able to get his thoughts out in a way I can understand what he is feeling. Therefore I am able to adjust the way I deal with him and lessens my frustration. I am leaning toward a tendency to get angry with him because he is not capable of understanding what I want him to do. It hurts and shames me deeply to get angry with him for something he can’t help. That tendency shrinks almost to nothing when we are playing.
Having dealt with my mother’s Alzheimer’s for 16 years, I was always looking for ways of dealing with her memory loss of everything including her family. When I discovered her ability to do songs and nursery rhymes, I reveled in that new discovery.
Now with the Dementia, I am still trying to change the ways I can communicate with my husband. This time I’m looking for ways to communicate through a playful attitude and playing a child. This is working today, and I will take it. It’ll work for today, and when that stops working, I’ll find another way to communicate. It is well worth it for the caretaker to see a sparkle return to their eyes, a smile on their face, and a grateful grip of the hand. These few things are the most that can be expected in the very late stages of any kind of dementia, but they mean the world to the caretaker and the ill one.
In the meantime, we continue to hang on to the moments of recognition and play as long as his illness will allow him to do that.