As some of you may know, I work in a nursing home. I have for the last five years. The experience of working where I do has, to this day, been the most challenging yet most rewarding thing I have ever done. I have met a variety of people; funny, entertaining, happy, sad, angry, quiet and many other types of people. I have helped people through heartbreaks. I have celebrated through the triumphs and I have become a better person all through the lessons learned.
I work in a nursing home which is different than an assisted living center. Where I work the majority of the residents are wheelchair bound, need assistance in most aspects of daily life and almost every individual is living in the stages of dementia/Alzheimer’s.
These stages range anywhere from forgetting names, events that happened early in the day to being unable to feed themselves and may not even be able to speak.
These stages come with different behaviors attached to them. Some negative, some positive. Each unique. With every unique individual I have the pleasure of knowing comes quality that’s added to my life.
However, there are difficult days. Such as the other day while I was sitting with one of my residents during our daily visit and she began to express to me how awful it felt that her brain “isn’t the way it should have been.” These conversations break my heart.
Every so often there is a moment of clarity with some of the residents that I meet. A moment where they’re completely aware what is happening to them and how unfair it is. Sometimes they joke around about it, sometimes they cry and sometimes they get angry. There isn’t any special way I’ve learned to help them through these moments. All I know how to do is love them.
Regardless of how hard it may seem, I can’t allow them to see my heart breaking when they’re expressing their feelings as that moment isn’t about me. As a caring human being, when I see someone I love struggling I’m of course going to feel upset over it. I have plenty of time to express those feelings; but when those moments present themselves I need to remain strong and help my resident(s) through it.
To be the person who I realizing that they are living in a nursing home or that they have a disease that is slowly wiping away eighty plus years of memories is unfathomable. They’re aware that there isn’t anything they can do to prevent it and they’re trying to figure out how to live with it while also continuously losing a part of who they are.
I feel as humans be take our memories for granted. We don’t understand how important remembering is. Without our memory, who are we? How do we love? How do we make decisions? When memory is gone, what do we have?
Working in my field has taught me to appreciate life and the small things I take for granted everyday, like the ability to remember my loved ones names.
If you know someone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, I urge you to be patient. They are battling something beyond our comprehension.