When her two grandsons walk in the door, you can see the spark of joy enter Sharon’s eyes and slowly work its way into her smile. Like many people with memory loss, she had been wandering the house, unsure of where she was or what she should be doing. But as soon as her grandsons stepped in the door she was sure of one thing: these boys belonged to her. She knelt down so she could greet them with a kiss, and then off they ran into the house to begin to play. Sharon followed them, making sure they stayed in line. She scolded them a few times when they got too rowdy: “Kids! Keep it down!” Even though Sharon might not always know what role she should be playing, when her grandsons are visiting her at Arthur’s Residential Care she is thrilled to jump right back into the nurturing role of Grandma.

Most of us have seen the way memory loss can affect a person’s ability to come up with plans and to solve day-to-day problems. Finding a word or a name is sometimes a struggle, and even following or joining a conversation can be hard. Following a familiar recipe or keeping track of the calendar may be too much. But for Sharon, like so many others with dementia, relationships with loved ones remain intact and they are deeply important.

Positive Emotions and Memory Loss

How is it that a loved one can still remember that you are an important part of the family even if they can’t recall your name or your exact relationship? Research shows that emotion plays a key role in memory. We all remember emotionally charged events best. What’s more, pleasant emotions are usually remembered better than unpleasant ones. It’s a good sign that these two grandsons can visit their Grandma Sharon at Arthur’s and have a good time and maybe even get a little rowdy to the point where they trigger Sharon’s “Grandma voice.” Their relationship continues to be a loving one that triggers joy despite memory loss.