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For those with loved ones in nursing homes

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HFSSC posted 6/5/2014 22:08 PM

This has been rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks. The 2nd week of May is National Nursing Home Week. We did lots of activities to celebrate what we do, involving staff, residents and family members. And I wanted to write about something that always brings a tear to my eye and a little catch in my heart when I remember. Because even though I know there are crappy nursing homes and crappy staff out there, I want you all to know that places like where I work exist, that people like me and my coworkers exist.

I started working at this place in 2005. And my first day there, I was introduced to Daisy. She was one of the very first residents when the building opened. She had a single-digit medical record number. She was mute, had some level of hearing impairment and had been institutionalized for her entire life. She had given birth at least once in her life, so there was definitely abuse in her past. She had no living family that we were aware of. Our administrator was appointed as her guardian and legal representative.

Even though she couldn't talk and had never been educated in any sort of formal sign language, she communicated quite effectively. We learned what her gestures, sounds, expressions meant. She loved to dip snuff, and we always made sure she had enough. I used to sneak a dollar into her hand when I would see her. She would grin, put her hand over her mouth as if to say, "Shhh" and then hide the dollar in her bra. She was very territorial and possessive. She had HER spot, HER table in the dining room, HER stuff.

Somehow, she knew the song Jesus Loves Me. She couldn't sing it, but she recognized when it was played. She would point to the sky, cross her arms over her heart, and then point to herself.

One day, we noticed she hadn't been using her snuff. She wasn't eating well. She looked like she didn't feel good. Tests revealed gallstones, so she was admitted to the hospital for surgery. When they opened her up, they found cancer throughout her abdomen. Our administrator paid CNAs round the clock to go and sit with her at the hospital so she wouldn't be alone, with no familiar faces.

She came back to us and a local hospice agency donated their services to us/her. She lived about 6 weeks and died surrounded by her "family." The CNAs who had cared for her for years. Nurses who had given her meds and made sure she was comfortable. Housekeepers who had learned what to touch and what to leave alone. Social workers who had learned to read her moods and respond with love, compassion, tenderness, even when she was cranky and frustrated.

There was no one to claim her remains, but our DON worked for 2 days until she found an agency that would take her remains for medical research, then cremated her. Her cremains were returned to us, and were buried just outside the window where she loved to sit. I walk by that window and see her tree, and am profoundly grateful to have known her. To experience the opportunity to simply love a human being who had nothing to offer in return but a toothless grin, unintelligible sounds and a pure, childlike faith in the Jesus who she knew loved her.

Every day, I walk in the door with the commitment to give my very best to the people who have been entrusted to my care. To treat each one as I would want my mom or dad treated. And I am blessed far beyond any blessing that I am able to give.

I hope and pray that your loved ones are loved by their caregivers as I love my residents.

FaithFool posted 6/5/2014 22:23 PM

God bless you sweetie. My mum spent her last three years in a couple of places that were staffed with amazing caring individuals like you.

When she hit the homestretch of the last 90 days, the nurses couldn't do enough for her, and she was able to tell them how much she appreciated what they did.

They picked her up and cleaned her up more times that we will ever know, and they were endlessly patient and loving right up until the end.

We were very blessed to have found such a wonderful place for her. You are all angels.

Jeaniegirl posted 6/6/2014 12:29 PM

What a touching story. I had tears.

My Grandmother was in a local nursing home the last three years of her life. She was the life of the party and represented the nursing home in the small town parade as "Miss Nursing Home." She wore a crown and rode in a convertible. The administrator told she made the place 'come alive' as she was an organizer and got other residents involved in spelling bees and simple games. Of course she sent ME around town, getting free prizes from the merchants for these games. I was happy to do it.

I haven't forgotten the wonderful staff and I go there at Christmas and different times during the year to visit .... and try to always take them little gifts. When my grandmother passed, it was really sad for the residents and staff.

If any of us have any spare time, volunteering at a local nursing home is always appreciated! There are wonderful people living there, many of them FORGOTTEN by the families that put them there. And they are such interesting people with a lot of great life experiences to share.

tushnurse posted 6/6/2014 12:34 PM

God Bless you.
It's folks like you, that can make a difference and make that final time something that is a positive. Not just for Daisy but for the patients with families, and those without.

I deal with situations on a nearly daily basis where the elderly don't get the help, love, and care they need. I struggle to find the resources, and dig my heels in and force the issue when needed.

I am thankful that I can do my part to help these folks.

It's a shame so many don't realize the things this generation of folks have been through and to take the time to hear their stories. Some are just amazing.

(((and strength)))

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