By Lucy Notarantonio
An unlikely friendship has formed between a pensioner with Alzheimer’s and four-year old who have become the best of friends
Doug Cheek, 76 and Royal Luna, four, first met two years ago through Royal’s mum Laura Luna, 42, as she had just started her new job as Doug’s caretaker.
The mum-of-three was unable to get childcare one day so brought her then toddler along and instantly noticed ‘chemistry’ between the two.
Doug’s wife Tay, 76, noticed the connection between them too and decided it would be a great idea to bring Royal to all her shifts.
Now two years on, the pair are inseparable and Royal refers to Doug as his ‘best friend’.
Laura, from Los Angeles, US said: “I was called to Doug’s home one day as there was an emergency so I had to bring Royal, at first I was worried in case about what Doug and Tay might say as I had just started the job and didn’t want to seem unprofessional.
“But they just gravitated towards each other and had instant chemistry, it was so nice to see.
“I think having someone young around has helped Doug as it gives him a sense of responsibility as he loves teaching Royal new things and reading him books.
“Tay asked if I could bring Royal again as she noticed Doug was much happier than usual so I agreed as Royal hasn’t got any grandparents who live nearby so it would be nice for him to have a grandfather figure.
“It has been really sweet to watch their friendship unfold, they almost speak their own language and have a secret handshake.
“When organising Royal’s fourth birthday party, the first friend he wanted to invite was Doug, they really are best buds.
“They love going to the beach, playing a memory card game and reading which helps keep Doug’s brain stimulated.
“I have overheard Royal tell his friends about Doug and always asks why we can’t all live together which is super sweet.
“When Royal starts school, I think Doug will be a bit lost without him as he always say ‘goodbye, I am going to miss you’ when we are leaving on an evening.”
Grandfather-of-two Doug was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago – he gets confused most days, but his best buddy Royal helps as much as he can.
Laura: “Some days are tougher than others, it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. When Royal is having a hard day and crying or upset about something it can throw Doug off too.
“Some days can be more challenging then others, but that’s to be expected.
“I have noticed that when Royal and Doug are having a hard day, we go to the beach and jump in the waves and everyone’s mood shifts.
“Royal doesn’t understand what is wrong with Doug but he says ‘I know you have a owie on your brain, but I am going to help you’.
“It is great to be able to teach my son how important it is to always be of service to others through this caretaking job it has taught Royal to be compassionate and empathetic.
“Tay calls me her lifesaver and says their lives have changed since we have met and even the doctors have noticed Doug is happier.”
To see more of their adorable friendship follow @adventuresofdougandroyal