satine_gwJune 19, 2013

Good morning. Yesterday I picked up a friend from the hospital and drove her to a rehab/nursing facility. She is recovering from cancer surgery and needs wound care etc. I helped in getting my friend to her room and settled. I left there feeling so deflated-maybe even depressed. There were so many residents mingled on her unit-dementia, physical rehab, nursing etc. They had tables set up in what I assume had been an atrium and that is where the patients ate their dinner. I was both shocked and saddened to see so many mostly elderly people who appeared lost and empty. I was torn between wanting to sit and talk to them and fleeing as quickly as possible. My mother suffered from and died from complications of dementia so I am familiar with it. I just can't get that picture out of my mind. I wish I could be the kind of person who could do something to make these patients' lives better in some way. I know I am rambling because it is hard to put into words how I am feeling. I have to go back today to bring my friend some clothes and I bracing myself. What happened to my empathy. I feel like such a cold person. Please give me your thoughts. Satine

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This sounds like a peculiar nursing home, mingling patients this way, but that's not what you're asking.

The fact that you are concerned about these patients shows that you have plenty of empathy. Don't worry about that. The situation also sounds too daunting, taken as a whole. All the sad and lonely people... Isn't there a Beattles song? It's like the 'starving hordes of (wherever)'; more than one person can take on!

You are helping your friend, and that's good. You might stop to exchange some conversation with a few of the patients you encounter -- bring a little interest to their day. Just "Hello" and a smile might be cheering without upsetting or confusing anyone.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 11:24AM
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I hear what you're saying. When we had to place my Mom in an Alzheimers unit in an exclusive nursing home, we were horrified the first day we saw it as it all looks so tragic but, as time went on, we all got to know the other people and their personalities and actually enjoyed mingling with them. I used to go with my Mom to the activities and joined in. It reached the point where, when I took my Mom home for the weekends, she would say on Sunday "Isn't it time for me to get back home"
Remember to a person who is senile, they have no barriers and delight in most things.
Your friend will find people like herself there to talk to and enjoy. I wish her a speedy recovery and my dear, you wouldn't have taken her if you didn't have empathy. You're just suffering from the shock of it all. You sound like anyone in the same situation.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:20PM
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You have empathy, but as yayagal said it was a difficult situation to see. Maybe while visiting your friend, take a few extra moments chatting with other residents. They don't get much attention from staff and caregivers.

My Father-in-law is in a "memory care" facility and at first it was very overwhelming for him and us, but as I visited daily and began getting to know other residents I have found I have a calling for working with the elderly, especially with Demetia. Just giving them a moment of your time and sometimes just a pat on the hand and smile makes them feel important. Often times family and friends stop visiting, so those are the people I try to spend a bit more time with.

Your friend is VERY lucky to have you in her life!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:46PM
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Like many of you...I've had close hand experience with those afflicted with dementia. One thing I've learned over the years is that those of us who still retain our faculties need to remind ourselves that we're on the outside looking in. Yaya is right. "...they have no barriers and delight in most things." For those with dementia, the final trip is often much more pleasant than we imagine and a simple act of caring...like that gentle pat, Matti...is nearly all that's needed to add a smile to their day. I've found that those who need the most help are the person...or persons...caring for the afflicted. They're the ones who need an extra hug and a shoulder to lean on from time to time. IMO...they're the caring people who need our empathy the most. They're hurting in an often inexplicable fashion and need to be validated throughout the caring procedures.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 1:31PM
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The May 20 issue of The New Yorker has an article by Rebecca Mead titled "The Sense of an Ending". It's about some breakthroughs in nursing home practices in caring for people with dementia. It's about less meds and less regimented meals, baths, restraints...everything. It focuses on a place in Phoenix, called Beatitudes Campus, and the changes they have instituted.

Staff is trained to 'read' the patients' faces and body movements over trying to make them express their needs verbally. They stopped routine diapering and escorted patients to the toilet twenty minutes after they ate. (Less discomfort for the patients and less work for staff.) Staff and family members are encouraged to just go along with the altered perceptions of the patients -- if the patient thinks you are her mother, go along with it. Staff members develop empathy by 'playing patient', having their teeth brushed for them, being spoon fed, trying to understand instructions given them in a language they don't understand.

The result seems to produce more serenity and less acting out.

It's a good read.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 2:43PM
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I how I know how you feel........ I lost my Dad yesterday. I moved him in with me 6 weeks ago and hospice provided me with 5 days respite in a nursing home. I took him there on June 1st with EVERY intention of bringing him home.........within the first 24 hours my 92 year old father fell and fractured his hip. I was there with him everyday sometimes two and three times a day. It was so very difficult to watch the patients there. I too wanted desperately to help or flee. I felt so very helpless as each one would look at me as if "why was he so special to have a visitor everyday" NOT ONCE since June 1st did I see ANY patient get a visit from anyone. It was so very heart wrenching. When I went yesterday to say "Goodbye" to my father I left everything (clothes etc.) for the patients to enjoy as HOW could they ever get any decent pj's etc if no one visits to see what they need. O how awful it felt to leave those people behind.........................

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 3:36PM
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Satine, you're good people.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 4:22PM
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linda_ut, my heart goes out to you. I lost my dad last November. This past Father's day was pretty hard on me.

As for the nursing home....when I was 16, I got my first "real" job working in the kitchen at a local nursing home. I felt the residents looking at me, and I imagined them thinking "I used to be young and pretty like that. She will be old before she knows it". I ended up working many different jobs at this nursing home. I worked in the office for a while, was an occupational therapist, sensory stimulation therapist, assistant activities director, activities director and driver.
So many of the residents NEVER got visitors, even tho their families lived in the area. It was really sad. Others, had visitors every day.
Satine, you may have gotten a slap of reality. We are all mortal. Seeing so many elderly all in one place is a real eye opener. One I got early in life. Now, I spend my days with children. I wasn't made to work with people at the end of their lives. Just wasn't.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 5:08PM
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Condolences, Linda. Doesn't matter how long you know death is coming, when it DOES, it's a shock. Sorry for your loss.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 6:04PM
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Satine and Linda, I know exactly how you feel. It's haunting.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 6:43PM
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Linda, Im so sorry for your loss. Still miss mine after 6 years. Also want to thank others who responded. I was back at the facility today to bring my friend some clothes and have a visit. It seemed a bit more peaceful today for some reason. My friend liked all the clothes I brought her and she seemed comfortable so I drove home feeling better.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 9:35PM
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Looking in the face of our own mortality is often fearful.

I have often thought I'd like to start a music program in a retirement home - Music has made my painful experiences bearable. I think about it....but I havent done it.....so I don't suppose it does any good. But I hope that I am not lonely when I'm old.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 10:18PM
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Satine, your post doesn't sound cold at all. You obviously feel compassion for these people. But you've been through a lot yourself, and one can take on just so much.

I used to bring my kids to visit nursing homes when they were growing up. Some nursing home residents are neither old nor recuperating; they may have severe birth defects. I remember some residents whose appearance put me off so badly that I was hesitant to enter their rooms. But my young son would go right in and talk to them. I'd told him that touch was important, and people in nursing homes didn't get enough of it. So he would put his arm around them, no matter how they looked. I discovered the other day that he remembered this. I was so glad to be reminded of it.

Amyfiddler, I used to sing regularly in a nursing home. Just me, accompanying myself on the piano. They always seemed to enjoy it, but I think when I finished the set and walked around to greet everyone and give hugs, they enjoyed that just as much if not more. :-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 12:10AM
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