Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She taught me how to play cards, sew, drink coffee (light & sweet), and make guitars out of tissue boxes. That’s where my creativity stems from. She is funny and you never know what is going to come out of her mouth next, it’s fantastic! Recently this year her Alzheimers has progressed creating an unsafe environment for her to live alone. The tough but necessary choice to place her in a nursing home happened about a month ago. The first time I visited I got really upset. The staff didn’t know her yet and most of the other residents there are unresponsive therefore it didn’t seem like a good fit for her. It was such a sad place, it looks like a hospital too which made it worse. When I was in college I took quite a few courses that highlighted this type of human service work. All of my professors constantly stated that the people who work in facilities like this are underpaid and over worked, it’s a high stress job. They were right. And there I was, sitting with my grandmother just observing everything the staff were doing, feeling horrible for them… but also angry at them. Some were so frustrated with the residents who simply just needed help. I get it though, I too have been in that position with my previous job which towards the end I decided to leave because it was unfair to the students I was working with. As I sat there and continued watching these staff work in frustration I wished and prayed that whatever was troubling their hearts would be taken care of; whether that’d be money, relationships, or work. Some day I hope I can do something for these people as everyday they get out of bed and go to work they are heroes in my mind. It’s a tough job.
The second time I visited my grandma those feelings began to dissipate. I felt more at ease with the staff and the situation. She felt more at home but was also confused. It was Valentine’s Day and I showed up right before dinner time. Everyone was in the common area waiting for the food to come out. They had a group of gentlemen come in and sing for about 10 minutes. To my surprise, Gram knew all of the words to the songs and sang the whole time. I had brought her a vase of tulips and a card, she asked me the same question about the card 3 times. Dinner came out and she ate, one woman sitting with us fell asleep at the table and the other one is a (retired?) nun. The nun is very sharp, she is very helpful and I had a nice chat with her, she also remembered who I was which was nice since I had only been there one time prior. After dinner is when it got hard for me, I had to leave by a certain time in order to get to my gym class. Gram asked if she was going home with me that night and my heart broke. I had to redirect her like I used to do with my students and show her to her room… she forgot she had a room there and a bed. I got her to her room and she showed me all the flowers and cards she got for Valentine’s Day. We picked out her nightgown and she went into the bathroom. I went into the hall and asked for a nurse to come to the room to help transition with me so I could leave. I told Gram I was leaving and that Donna was going to help her get in bed. She hugged me and thanked me for being there because she would have been lost without me… I felt horrible, but at peace because Donna is very sweet and I knew she would help her into bed.
Anyways… If you ever get a chance to go to a nursing home to volunteer or visit with someone, do it. The residents and staff could always use new positive energy in their day. Give the staff compliments and thank them, make them feel good too as they have one of the hardest jobs. Currently I am trying to recruit someone to come with me to visit her, preferably someone who plays guitar that wouldn’t mind playing a few songs for the residents before dinner. If that is you, get in contact with me.