Baby brings memory and speech back to aged care resident with dementia

A woman with dementia who has forgotten how to speak suddenly rediscovers her voice when paid a visit by a six-month-old baby.

Morleen Templeman, 83, has had trouble communicating since being diagnosed with dementia and moving into the care of Feros Village in the northern New South Wales town of Bangalow.

Care manager Jo Dwyer said Mrs Templeman had experienced a lot of frustration since losing her speech.

"Morleen is troubled, and you can see that, but she can't tell us why," Ms Dwyer said.

"One of the biggest ways she's been affected is her speech, she'll be out there muttering and muttering but nothing is clear, only very occasionally she might say 'thank you' or 'pretty flower.'"

But when carer Shelly Fletcher visited with her six-month-old daughter Lola, Mrs Templeman suddenly rediscovered her voice.

"It blew my mind away, I watched when we welcomed Morleen into the village and her journey then was quite difficult and to see the woman she becomes around Lola … her transformation is incredible," Ms Fletcher said.

"When Morleen sees Lola her whole body just changes, she has this really maternal energy and you can just see her shoulders become upright, she starts putting her hands out like she wants to hold Lola, her speech becomes so much more improved, she starts to talk in sentences, she'll say 'beautiful baby' or 'where's the nappy?'"

And it is not just Mrs Templeman's speech that returns.

Ms Fletcher said she remembers how to take care for a child.

"Just naturally, without talking about it, we naturally both start caring for Lola and Morleen will start changing her nappy," Ms Fletcher said.

"She spotted that Lola had stuff behind her ears, so I reported that to her dad because he's on bath duty.

"I said 'Morleen's criticising your bathing ability.'

"Then in winter I didn't put socks on and Morleen reminded me I should put socks on, so here I am with baby brain and Morleen living with dementia and the two of us get the job done."

"I think it's that long-term memory that's still there and that amazing maternal love she obviously had for her own children, then her grandchildren," she said.

"You'll often hear ladies with dementia asking for their mum, but Morleen is the other way.

"It's that strength of maternal love and that deep long-term memory that comes to the fore.

"She was clearly an incredible mum."

Ms Fletcher said it was not just the aged care residents that benefitted.

"The best thing I love about coming to aged care is it's non-judgmental, poo explosions are OK, there's plenty of wipes and very talented staff to handle that, not like being in a cafe," she said.

"I did not expect the benefits that I was going to gain. Research is out there about the benefits to seniors, but I definitely underestimated the benefits Lola and I benefited from.

"Lola sleeps so well post-visits.

"For me, you can go through days just holding your baby and not actually being able to watch her, so coming to a village and handing her over to someone you trust and then sitting back with a cup of coffee and watching your baby is really special."