Gladys’ Place

“I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.” –Lemony Snicket


At a moment like this, walking through the brightly lit hall adorned with pictures of the past, I wish I knew what lay ahead of me. The smooth wooden floors creak under my weight as I pass a living room that hosts a large T.V., although the environment feels too restless to sit down and watch a show. I hear the chatter of nurses just ahead, and as I pass a small bedroom filled with baby dolls, I feel like I am about to collapse from the weight of anxiousness sitting on my chest.

This house—filled with a few other people—is known as Gladys’ Place. Its pristine lawns and flawlessly-painted house screams “perfect” on the outside, but inside it’s a different story. It is a home for people with Alzheimer’s Disease, and maybe that is why I am so afraid. I don’t know what to expect. The thought of doing something wrong and upsetting a resident is almost unbearable, and soon enough a nurse beckons me into a sitting area that hosts my very fear.

Slowly taking in my surroundings, I glance at an old man sitting in a leather chair and notice that he is keeping the beat of the song playing over the speakers as he taps his wrinkled hands against his knee. I also catch a glimpse of a woman who doesn’t look a day over sixty walking into her room with a baby doll nestled in her arms, singing a soft melody to help it “fall asleep.”

The air smells of hand-sanitizer and Lysol, and I suddenly feel a strong sense of sadness towards the residents that live here. Sure, they were put in in this home to help provide them a sense of a semi-normal life as they slowly live out their days with Alzheimer’s, but the constant reminder of how susceptible they are to sickness never leaves.

Despite this, the residents here never fail to make people smile. Their attitudes never crumble under the weight of this disease, and because of this I’ve come to see them just as I see anyone else: a normal human being. They were put in this home to live the rest of their lives with dignity, and this fact alone is what matters the most in my experience. Especially when it came to Milt.

I will never forget the numerous7 times we talked, whether it was about his past drumming career in a band, or how he met his wife on a blind date. I would always look for his salt-colored hair when I ventured into Gladys’, usually to find him snoring asleep on a leather couch or peering through his glasses as he talked to people around him. He loved to go to church, or have someone play a soft melody on the piano. Music was definitely a big part of his life, and I wish I could say that I still see him drum away on his knees today.

Perhaps he does in Heaven.

But I’m not here to tell you about his passing. It’s difficult to put into words the experience that I have had at Gladys’ Place, and I wish I could relay everything that had ever happened to me there.

Most importantly though, I wish I could emphasize the importance of dignity. I’ve learned that the dignity of the human person is what’s most important. I’m glad that Gladys’ Place is able to provide grace for its residents, and I am grateful that I was able to help be a part of it. When I began my time at Gladys’ I was afraid, but as I grew to know and love each resident, I realized how precious all life is. As Henry David Thoreau had said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”