Several months ago, I told you what my grandma taught me about dementia; namely, that there’s still a person in there, even in the very latest stages of the disease.
A Korean War combat medic named Augie Angerame has taught us the same thing.
You see, Augie’s dementia has progressed to the point that he can no longer communicate verbally. He lives in a VA nursing home on Long Island, receiving extensive daily care and frequent visits from his son, John.
A few months ago, Augie began going into the room of another nursing home resident with dementia. Neither man could speak, but Augie would gently rub the man’s back and behave in such a way that could only be described as “checking” on him. Frank responded positively (yes, nonverbally, but we all know that words aren’t necessary to express true emotions), so the nursing home made the two men roommates.
(c) CBS News
John was puzzled by his father’s new behavior, so he began investigating. He noticed that his father’s pictures from the Korean War looked remarkably similar to pictures the other man had of his time in the service. When John studied the man’s name, something clicked.
The man’s name was Frank Dibella, and Augie had mentioned him to John many years ago. Frank was the cook for Augie’s artillery unit. And when Frank was wounded by a bomb blast, it was Augie who took care of him.
How did Augie know that the man down the hall was the same man he cared for as a medic sixty years ago? Whether you prefer to think scientifically or spiritually about this, I believe we can arrive at the same conclusion: Because he’s still in there, and that is a true miracle.
Frank’s still in there, too. And through their reunion and return to the old roles that gave them purpose, we have yet again learned a very important lesson about dementia.
Thank you, Augie and Frank – not only for this lesson, but for your courageous service to our country.