When my grandmother became ill and started to forget everyone that loved her, she would fight with us when we wanted to help her bathe or use the bathroom. She remembered her childhood and using outdoor facilities and didn’t remember that she had inside plumbing. We had to remove all the knives from the house for her own safety and for the safety of family members, because she had forgotten who they were. When she called me by someone else’s name, I just went right along with her, to make things easy. She didn’t remember my mother either, so we just pretended to be whoever she wanted us to be.
A memory that stands out is a conversation my grandmother had with my 12-year-old son the day before she passed away. She told him to make sure he ate plenty because there was so much food on the table. She told him if there wasn’t enough food, she would make him more. Through tears, he replied to her, “Mama, I just ate at home, but I can always eat again.” There was no food on the table.
We learned a great deal from spending time taking care of her. In her mind, she was in a totally different place than we were. Sometimes she was a child who didn’t want it known that she had knocked over the bird cage. When we put her to bed at night, she wanted to make sure that we tucked in all three of them. She thought her sisters were in bed with her, just like the times in her childhood.
Sometimes my grandmother would be in the present and remember that I was her granddaughter. Then, it would pass and she would call me “the mean little girl that made her do things that she didn’t understand.”
I’ve been a nurse for almost thirty hears and I have worked in hospitals and long-term care facilities. As I started my career, Dementia/Alzheimer’s was not talked about as often as it is now. I think it was because people did not know how to treat or take care of these victims.
I’ve learned so much and know that every patient is unique. As a health care provider, I’ve learned to role play. Some residents like to hold a baby doll because they think it is their child. Residents who worked a night shift are still up all night and will sleep all day. There is always a reason why a resident acts a certain way, and if we can learn the reasons, we can make their quality of life much better.
Families make difficult decisions when they place a loved one in our care. We understand that. We all love our residents and treat them like family.
Submitted by: Joyce Newsome, Director of Nursing
Integrity Healthcare of Herrin