I have always had a love for seniors. I especially enjoy caring for the ederly who have some form of dementia. Alzheimer's is a terrible diagnosis and so sad to witness. However, I love caring for those patients. I spent many years working in long term care and several of those years were spent on a dementia unit. Since my time working in the hospital, I have become known as the nurse who would trade patients with other nurses. I would gladly take the 80 year old lady who has no clue where they are, and is climbing out of bed, all while she is forgetting that she is no longer able to walk, rather than take the 25 year old male who has just had an appendectomy. Most nurses don't understand why I would do this because the dementia patients are much harder to care for.
There was one day I was working on the dementia unit and we were going through our nightly rounding and one of the every two hour bedchecks. There was a lady who was yelling out most of the night. There was nothing that could be done to help her sleep. We went into her room and all she kept saying was "It's coming, it's coming!" She kept telling us to get the doctor. She thought she was having a baby. When we went into the room she was laying uncovered with both of her knees up, "in position". The other nurse that was working with me had already done all she could do to help her. We couldn't figure out how to get her to settle down and go to sleep. She was starting to wake up the other residents. And if you have ever worked in long term care, several people awake at one time in the night, makes for a very long night.
This lady had a baby doll that she carried around all day. This doll was laying in a chair by her bed, so the nurse told this lady to "PUSH!" She instructed her just like she was in the maternity ward. Within minutes, this sweet 80+ year old lady was handed a sweet baby (doll). She immediately stopped yelling and smiled from ear to ear. She named the baby (doll) John, held him in her arms and went fast to sleep. We didn't hear another peep out of her all night.
Now, I don't know what it was that made her yell like that, or made her think she was having a baby. What I do know is that sometimes, with dementia you just have to go to whatever space they are in and be there with them. Even though there was nothing physically, that we could see, that was even close to that of giving birth, this sweet lady believed it was time. In her mind, she was pregnant and ready to deliver and there was no one there to help her.
After she woke the next morning, I am sure she had no memory of the previous night. It was back to business as usual. The nurse aids helped her get up, get bathed and dress and fed her breakfast. She carried around "baby John" all day, just as she did every day. I don't think it ever occured to her that "John" was only a day old.
The beautiful part of dementia is that most times these patients go back in their mind to happier days. At least at some point of the disease process they do this. This lady raised many children, that is what she was really good at. She was a great mother to her children. She was content and happy knowing that she was still raising "children".
My prayer is that as those precious people in my life grow old, they will remember all that is good about their lives. When their minds play tricks on them and they have trouble remembering, I pray those memories of what was most important to them and those "happier days", will come front and center. I pray that they will live out their lives remembering all the love they shared and those who loved them as well. I pray that whomever will be there to care for them at that stage in life, will not try to make them wrong. That they will not try to bring them back to the reality that haunts them. I pray that those caregivers will have mercy, and compassion, and go to the place where THEY are, and just "be" with them. Wherever that may be.
This reminds me of Jesus. Not all people were allowed to come or well enough to come to the synagogue. That did not hinder Jesus, he went to them. He calmed their fears, healed their bodies and simply showed them love.
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