This 'wedding' held to help the 'bride' remember a kiss

June 21, 1991|By Elisha King | Elisha King,Evening Sun Staff

He held her gently around the waist, dancing past pink and white balloons and singing the words to "Ain't She Sweet." He was too busy smiling to notice the gray in his new bride's hair, and too jubilant to worry that he might be awfully young for this 90-year-old lady.

Stanley, 55, was enjoying every minute of the mock wedding held at the Keswick Adult Day Care Center yesterday, excited that Margaret had chosen him as her groom.

The mock wedding was part of a reminiscent therapy program, a technique that can help stimulate the minds of people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia that cause memory loss and disorientation.

"We try to keep them abreast of what day it is, what month it is, and what season it is, because they sometimes forget," said Ruth Yenling, the center's coordinator of program development. "June is a big time for brides, so that's why we decided to have a wedding."

As participants danced to old-time songs, they had no trouble remembering the steps and music. The groom sang the words to his favorite tunes, and the bride remembered her days as a ballerina while she stepped easily in time to the music.

But the effects of dementia occasionally surfaced: The groom had trouble remembering which way to throw the garter, and the bride wasn't sure whether she had been kissed, although she had received two kisses during the ceremony.

"Alzheimer's patients often have trouble with short-term memory, but their long-term memory may be almost completely intact," said Carol Jackson, a center therapist who coordinated the mock wedding.

Because researchers have not yet determined what causes Alzheimer's disease, or how it can be cured, Keswick therapists could not be sure whether reminiscent therapy will aid the memories of center participants. Even if the programs can't help the participants' memories, they do boost spirits.

Helen Donohoe, whose husband, John, attends the day-care center, said she has seen a tremendous improvement in his mood since he's been coming to Keswick.

"John loves it. He walks very slowly at home, but when the bus comes he runs right to it." she said.

John and the other participants prepared for the wedding during the past two weeks, as center staff members led discussions about wedding traditions. Participants also learned about weddings in their art classes, while they made tissue-paper flowers and other reception decorations.

A volunteer served as the ceremony's pastor. Lester Pinkerton, 71, wrote all of the vows for the mock wedding, including, "Do you, Margaret, promise to always prepare three meals a day, 6:15 for breakfast, 12:15 for lunch, and 6:15 for a candlelight dinner?" and "Do you, Stanley, promise to always be promptly ready to eat at those designated times?"

The wedding gown, originally sewn for a small woman, dictated which participant could be the bride. Margaret fit into the dress, and she got the honor of choosing the groom.

"I picked Stanley because he's the best dancer," Margaret said, tapping her toes as she sat in a chair next to her new husband.

Was he happy to be her groom?

"I'm happy with any bride!" Stanley said with a smile.

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