Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Filial Affection


We must listen closely to patients with dementia’s thoughts and feelings, even though their sense of reality may be different than our own.

Dear Father, 


I am now  

in Hong Kong, 

healthy and safe.  

Please put  

your worries  

to rest. 


The time  

will come 

for my return, 

and we shall 


as father  

and son.  


As to when  

that may be,  

let us 

let fate  



In haste,  

Your son 


This is a loose translation of a recent letter written by my grandfather, a survivor of the Second Sino-Japanese War, who is currently in the throes of dementia. He penned the letter to reassure his father that he’d safely made the journey from their hometown to Hong Kong in hopes of a better life.  


The poem sheds light on how dementia can affect the mind and distort one’s perception of time. I’ve learned that when supporting patients with dementia, it can be helpful to “go with their flow” by allowing space for them to freely express their thoughts and feelings, however out of touch their constructed realities may seem. Often, these patients want to share their stories, although they may repeat the same ones over and over. Nevertheless, the freedom of expression and unwavering reassurance from those they trust are two things dementia patients and their loved ones will appreciate until the very end.  







This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.