I spent several years working in a nursing home as a certified nurse aid. This was a great time in my life. It is an extremely hard job physically and can at times be hard on the heart. I loved each resident I cared for, even the most difficult ones who didn't want to be there or want us taking care of them. This is where I learned about adopted family.
I had several adopted grandparents during this time in my life. I remember one gentleman in paticular, Mr. Smith. He had a very poor memory, he had sons and grandsons and a wife. His wife was very diligent in coming to see him as often as she was able. He was a farmer, he was sure his farm was across the street and he would sit at the window "supervising" the men who worked the field. His son and grandsons came occassionally but it appeared they spent time working the farm and visiting with their mother and grandmother. Mr. Smith had suffered a stroke. He was unable to feed himself and unable to walk. He was reliant on staff to meet his daily needs.
I took care of Mr. Smith every day. I would bathe him, dress him, shave him, feed him, lay him down for naps, talk to him, listen to him, and at times cry with him as he would talk about his wife whom he missed and his farm and life before the stroke. He had what we called "emotional incontinence". One minute he would be laughing the next minute he would be crying and many times the emotion was not appropriate for what was really going on. For example he might cry when it would be more appropriate to laugh.
I remember when Mr. Smith stopped eating. He would not eat for anyone else but me. He kept saying he was tired of the nursing home food. He wanted something better. Because he was on a ground diet there wasn't much we could do to help him. Then one day I got an idea. I went to lunch before the residents would eat and on this particular day I went to taco bell. I got him a burrito with refried beans, cheese, onions and the "fixin's". When it was time for his lunch. I opened up that burrito and fed him only the insides of it. He wasn't able to eat the tortilla. He immediately thought he was in heaven. For the next several weeks, he would eat either a fish sandwich from McDonald's or a burrito from Taco Bell every day that I worked. And on some days when I didn't work I would still bring it to him. He was loving to eat again and was gaining weight.
The evening shift staff began to get angry with me. They had to feed him dinner and he wouldn't eat for them. His wife decided that it was ok, if he didn't want to eat dinner. He was getting calories and still gaining some weight just be eating what I was bringing him during the day. His health was deterioating so it really didn't matter what he was eating as long as he was eating. He was enjoying it and that is what mattered, at least to his wife.
The day that Mr. Smith passed, was a sad day for me. I felt I had lost a grandfather. I had cared for him and loved him like family. He was so sure I was going to marry his grandson. The funny thing is that his grandson was about 10 years or more younger than me. But Mr. Smith didn't care. He just wanted to bring me into his family.
Mr. Smith was a special man. Someone who touched my heart and blessed my life. I only hope that I gave to him as much as he gave to me.
In my mind that is what nursing is all about. Caring and compassion!