I started this blog in January of this year and at the end of February I was ready to quit because I was too busy with family affairs to try to come up with new topics every day, or even every other day. I love to cook, craft, garden and write but I had no time for those activities and therefore, I couldn’t blog about them either. I’m still quite busy as a full-time caregiver for my other sister but I make time to do the things I like even if I have to stay up late at night to do them, and busy or not, I'm always writing something so why not blog some of it.
When one of my sisters was diagnosed with dementia, I wanted to talk about it and so I started my blog up again in April. My sister has since died and we don’t visit the health care center anymore but I will never forget the other patients. I also keep in touch with Adolph, the 88 year old husband whose wife Elsa is still a patient there. Elsa has been in health care for many years and he visits her faithfully every day for 3 or 4 hours and then he goes home to his Lean Cuisine meals and to bed so he can get up and visit his wife again. They have no children.
Here is Elsa and Adolph
Ever since I was a little kid, I have liked the company of older people. They always have good stories to share about their youth and they seem interested in hearing about my day to day activities. I wanted to go back to the health care center to visit Adolph and his wife but my nieces and nephew might be starting a lawsuit against them and so I feel I should stay away. I have invited Adolph to dinner though and have made plans to meet him at a restaurant close to where he visits his wife. I am so glad we exchanged phone numbers. He just returned from a 4 week stay in Germany where he has a few relatives and he called me upon his return. I am hoping to hear all about his visit but I have a feeling he spent a lot of his vacation worrying about his wife. When I called him today he was upset over a bill he received that he feels his wife’s medical coverage should have handled. He has always paid his bills and now at this late stage of his life, he has this bill to worry about. We talked a little about some steps he can take and I think just being able to talk to someone has eased his mind a bit.
We never know the effect we might have on a person until we befriend them. Those people at the health care center sit in their wheelchairs all day long and stare into space or they involuntarily move their legs and arms and some will shout out words that make no sense. Anyone with half a brain must know that they are bored, that they have needs that aren’t being fulfilled, that they miss their independence and they have things to say but they can’t remember the words. Sometimes they cry from frustration and all anyone can do is try to soothe them. Most disturbing to me is that very few have visitors. Some may not have relatives alive anymore but I tend to believe that relatives think it is pointless to visit. I don’t agree, especially when I got responses from some of them just by saying hi and calling out their name as I walked by. Some say ‘hi’ back at me and others give me a big smile which is proof they are aware.
When I see two aides and one nurse trying to handle the needs of 20 patients, it is plain to see that the facility is short-staffed. If only one aide is on duty and one patient asks to go to the bathroom, that aide cannot just get up and leave the other 19 patients. More aides would be helpful but so would absent family members.
There are problems and I don’t have solutions but no doubt those kinds of places would benefit greatly with volunteers, if only just to sit next to and talk to a patient who is lonely. They don’t know where they are or why they are there but they haven’t forgotten that one thing that all of us have and that is a desire for human companionship. We need to make ourselves available to the needs of others no matter how small our contribution might be. The smallest thing you have to offer could be the best thing that has happened to someone in a long time. Your efforts may get no response but the fact that you tried will make you feel good and if you get a little smile, well, is there anything more beautiful than a genuine smile?