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Should You Visit a Friend Who May Not Remember Your Visit After You Leave?


A few weeks ago my friend Gail and I, classmates and friends from the Class of ’59, drove together down to Florida with the express purpose of visiting one of our classmates, who happens to be residing in Memory Care. We had been considering this visit for months.

This friend was not any ordinary friend. Over many years she had generously entertained us and others from our class at family homes in Paris and in different locations throughout the U.S. I remember what a wonderful host she was, going all out to ensure we were comfortable wherever we were and making sure that we enjoyed excursions to the most interesting of places. With these memories of happy times she had made to happen for us, we wanted to give back in a small way.

We had not been able to speak or communicate with our good friend for over a year since she entered Memory Care. Each of us had our own fears about what to expect: would our friend recognize us; would she be able to talk with us; would she even want to see us – and on and on. Communication with our friend’s family had been very sparse. For months we did not even know where she was.

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But what propelled us to jump in the car for the drive to Florida was a successful talk with our friend’s daughter, who gave us the name of the Memory Care facility where she was and giving her permission for our visit. However, we were warned that we were only to stay an hour, and that we were not under any circumstances to take her out of the facility.

So on a lovely, bright Sunday morning in early January we pulled up in front of a beautiful facility. We had thought about what our friend might enjoy. I remember how my friend Gail had kept beautiful scrapbooks from our school days. And that’s what Gail packed – four large scrapbooks from schooldays in the ’50s.

I brought her a few gifts, such as a bracelet that was easily opened, and a cotton sweater in the style that I remember she might have enjoyed.

We walked in but decided to omit our arrival time on the sign-in book in case anyone might be keeping tabs. Uneventfully, we were escorted directly to our friend’s room where a beautiful green Christmas wreath was still hanging on the door. (Our friend by profession was an interior designer.)

After several knocks, the door opened and we were met with first a bit of puzzlement and then a wide grin and utter joy as we hugged in delight. She always loved cats and had her two cats in her room as company. So we were careful not to let the kitties get out.

With our friend it was just like old times, each of us talking as if we had not ever been apart. Gifts were opened, and the bracelet was put on immediately. The package was opened and enjoyed.

And then next, out came the first scrapbook. It was as though time had never stopped as our friend recognized every person in every photo, remembering details that Gail and I had forgotten. Her recall was amazing. And that went for each book we browsed through.

Our visit did not last one hour; it lasted over four hours! As we left to return to our hotel, our thoughts were that maybe our friend was misdiagnosed. Maybe she had just been depressed. We then decided the test might be whether she will remember our visit when we return tomorrow.

And that’s what we did. Sadly, as she opened her door to greet us on the second morning, it was as though it were her first time to see us. She did have on the bracelet I had given her. But she wore the same clothes as the day before, and her hair could have used a wash.

We took up where we left off the previous day, but this time entered uncharted territory of the most recent stay we had enjoyed in one of her homes two years ago. Sadly, that memory was absent.

So this begs the question: Should one visit a relative or friend who may not remember your visit after you leave? In our minds (my friend Gail and myself) the answer is a resounding yes. We knew that deep down our friend remembered us and her feelings of friendship shared had never left. We were so happy to enjoy the memories still intact and to appreciate the good moments together.

This story originally appeared on Memories From My Life.

Getty photo by EllenaZ