Some time ago now, a neighbour was asking after S and I tried to explain that, even though she can hardly speak or do much for herself she is still, demonstrably, S. The neighbour, who has had some experience of dementia said, 'The essence of S is still there!' This summed-up the situation so well that I was overcome with emotion and had to end the conversation.
I realise that we are very lucky in this respect. Some people with dementia turn into a completely different person who may be aggressive and spiteful where they were once friendly and caring, for example. Others may become such a shadow of their former selves that they are barely recognisable even to their loved ones. Some may reach a stage where they do not recognise their loved ones and may become suspicious and wonder why a stranger is in their house.
But S is still very clearly there. She still smiles a lot as she has always done (except for a brief period of about 3 or 4 months when she was tormented and paranoid). She still does her best to be helpful when she is being moved around from commode to bed to wheelchair or 'rolled' from one side to the other whilst being dressed. She still mouths the words to some of her favourites songs when we go to our weekly 'Singing for the Brain' and occasionally actually sings some words softly.
It wasn't so long ago that she clasped a carer's hand after something that had been done for her and said 'Thank you'.
She still understands a good deal of what is said to her, providing she is not too distracted by what is going on in her brain.
Most encouragingly, whenever we help her to stand and take a few paces (with a good deal of support) the determination she shows is unmistakeable.
She was always a quietly determined person - it's part of her essence.