Thursday, I had geriatrics clinical at an Alzheimer’s special care facility. We have been preparing for how to care for patients with Alzheimer's in class and I thought it would be really challenging, emotionally, for me to experience it in real life. I just thought how tragic it must be to grow old and slowly lose your memory. I would think it is the memories that probably make you the happiest when you get to the later stages of your life.
Once arriving to the facility (us students), the first thing they asked us to do was to help with feeding some of the clients. So we go in the kitchen and everyone is gathered at the tables waiting on breakfast to come out. Many are in wheelchairs, all have on bibs, and some are even falling asleep. I sit at a “feeding table” and prepare myself thinking I know feeding someone sounds easy, but what if I can’t do it right? I mean these particular patients do not communicate much, if at all and on top of that she doesn’t even know me.
Then something just kicked in when I sat down next to her. This often happens to me in clinicals at the hospital when I am assigned to a patient (s)- I cannot describe the feeling I get. It is like I become very protective and in control (two things I am not really in everyday life). I know every patient has different needs and that at this moment, my patient needed two things: physically- she needed nutrients and emotionally- she needed comfort. So I just held her hand assuring her that I was there to care for her for awhile. Then as I fed her, I smiled and she smiled back at me almost the entire time. She couldn’t speak to me and I never really knew if she could understand what I was saying to her but I still felt that in a way we communicated something very special, at least it was to me.
The rest of the day, we helped with activities and just talked to the patients the best that we could. At one point we didn’t have much going on so I started walking around the facility. I had noticed earlier that in front of everyone’s room was a picture (old or new) of them and a biography. I wanted to find my patient from earlier to read her story and as I was looking, I just began reading everyone’s.
Every single one of these patient’s led the most intriguing lives and here they are unable to talk about it- but we have the opportunity to read about it. They were all VERY educated (many had masters and doctorate degrees) and even most of the women had college degrees, which surprised me for that generation. Many of them talked about their children and grandchildren and of course spouses of countless years (most were deceased). Several talked about the trips they had taken to Europe and various countries within. Almost all of them were very active in their church and communities they lived in. Several of the women were homemakers and enjoyed sewing, baking, and things of that nature. One of the doctors I read about was a radiologist who traveled all over the world for the World’s Fair. I didn’t even know really what that was until I looked it up later. One of the women was a Registered Nurse for over 35 years including the time she served in the Army.
I also loved looking at the pictures. To see the youth and be able to subtract all of the wrinkles and gray hair. And just recognizing one by one who each one was- although there were many changes, I could still tell who was who.
I know this blog is getting really long but I could talk all day about these biographies. I was so impressed, I read almost every single biography in that facility.
And it made me wonder, what will mine sound like? I know so far I have been happy and felt successful in my life. But compared to these people, I don’t have anything on them. I felt humbled- I might never have a biography like some of these people. But I do know one thing, I will keep everything I read in mind for the next patient I come across, for everybody has a story.