A State of Mind

When you spend as much time in a 24/7 Skilled Nursing Center as I do visiting my mother, naturally you’ll get to know the other residents that live there. Each resident is unique and special in my eyes, and I find it both heartbreaking and interesting to watch the changes they go through from visit to visit. Most of the residents are experiencing various degrees of Dementia or Alzheimer’s,  and depending on their “state of mind” on any given day, they may converse with me in complete sentences, or I may have to listen very closely to what they are saying and piece together the message they are trying so hard to communicate. I’ve been told it’s better not to try to help them finish their thoughts, just let them call up the words they can find to communicate their needs. So I just listen which is sometimes all they really need anyway, just someone to listen to them…

Some residents become frustrated, angry, and even bitter as they lose control of their command of speech. I’ve watched as some residents, who still show signs of being able to participate in activities, argue and even hit the staff when they are brought out to the activity room for arts/crafts or bingo. They seem to want to just sit in their rooms and stare at the wall. One man, I don’t even know his name yet, cried and yelled today, “I don’t want to be in here, I don’t want to play games, why are you making me do this, I don’t do this to you” Then he started singing over and over “you must play games, you must play games, the problem is the games are the same”. The staff member just rubbed the man’s back, smiled and walked away. I wanted to cry myself, and go sit with the man in his room, but that would be interfering with his care… so I just said a prayer asking God to comfort him.

I also notice how many of the residents don’t seem to see themselves in others. For example: I’ve heard residents talking about other residents saying how “dumb, stupid or crazy so and so is because they do this or that, when in fact I’ve witnessed the resident doing all the talking doing the very same things. It is also very interesting how important it is for some residents to “be right”. If one resident thinks another has done something wrong I’ve seen them go to great lengths to make sure everyone knows that person did something wrong. Then, once they have made the point of letting everyone know that person was wrong…they will continue to keep the pot stirred until someone else does something wrong that gets their attention then they will start in on the person that did the “new” wrong…Some of these residents are relentless in their efforts to complain about what other residents did or didn’t do “right”. Sometimes it reminds me of how chickens will peck sick or weak chickens within their own group to death!

And then there are some residents, like my friend, Sharon, you might remember her from Halloween, she is the lady that wanted Twix candy bars…she is an absolute delight to spend time with. Sharon has dementia, and doesn’t always speak in complete thoughts. Sometimes she will be in the middle of a sentence and notice something on the TV and she will just start talking about what’s on the TV… but when she talks, whatever she is telling you is told with sheer delight on her face. Sharon has the most beautiful laugh. I just love to hear her laugh. Sharon tells everyone that walks into the room they are beautiful. She tells me that every time I see her. She tells all the staff and even people she doesn’t know how beautiful they are. Sharon talks all the time about her son, Stephen, but the stories she tells about Stephen are never the same. One day she will tell you Stephen came to visit her “yesterday” and brought her “tons” of beautiful clothes to wear because he loves his mother so much. Last week Sharon was talking to me about her son, Stephen, and she told me he is a billionaire and has a beautiful home in Maricopa where she is going to go for Christmas Eve and spend the night and have dinner with Stephen and his family on Christmas Day. Today when I was talking with Sharon she told me she hasn’t seen her son, Stephen in five years. I asked her why and she looked at me and said “you know, I told you, he is in prison”. No matter what the story of the day is when Sharon talks to me about her son, Stephen, she always speaks joyfully of him. Her eyes shine and she has the biggest smile on her face when she talks to me about her beloved son, Stephen. I’ve known Sharon for four years now, and I have never seen anyone come to visit her, no one…and it makes me sad for Sharon because she is just an absolute delight of a person to spend time with, and I just love her and treasure our visits.

Now, I’ve been warned by some not to get too close to the residents because it “hurts too much when they are gone, and they all go…” but through all of my time at the Care Center, I’ve come to a better understanding of the old saying “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”. So, I’ll just keep loving Sharon, and all the other residents I visit on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings because, “it really is just a state of mind”!

Stay Tuned!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gotham Girl
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 20:13:19

    Such a beautiful soul you are! I wish there was someone like you here to visit my dad. So many people don’t know how to deal with people with alzheimer’s/dementia so it’s easier to just not visit. I’m so proud to be your friend! Love you! Much and MORE!


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