One of my absolute favorite moments of nursing came when I had a "sun downer" on an Acute Care Floor. She was a walky/talky patient- and really quite young for a dementia patient, but she had been giving the weekend crew fits- you should have heard the report- they said if we wanted to get anything done, make her a 1:1. Guess who got her-. . .
If you guessed "Boston" you are right!
I approached her room first with hands shaking, and there she was. She immediately came to hug me (thought I was her son, her "Favorite" son, and she wanted me to tell her "everything" I had been doing. I told her I was sooooo glad to see her- but, when I had finished assessment- she got real angry when I tried to leave. Jackpot- CNA came in to check VS, and had some fresh linen- her water bottle was empty, so I ran to fill it up (she had spilled the water on her bed.) CNA had bed made up by the time I came back, and though she remembered nothing we spoke of- she still thought I was her son.
I noticed the CNA had left the linens on the little couch by accident- and the patient was smiling, and folding each one up- "professionally" like hand towels are in a 4 star Hotel. I said, Momma? Is there anyway way you could help me fold my towels, and rags? I have so many clean, but I have been toooooo busy to get to it.
I raced to the linen closet shaking out 6-8 towels, and 5 or 6 hand towels, put them on a cart, and raced back. People followed me to the door to peek (thanking it was a bad BM, or something awful.) As she would get them folded, she would bring them to the desk, and I would make such a big deal over how great they looked- and how grateful I was for her help, and was she ready for the next load? Of course she was.
She folded towels until 3 or 4 AM, Me, another Nurse, or the CNA would shake them out, and race them back. She was D/C'd later that day back to her facility. Before I left, She told me how wonderful it was to spend time with me (still thinking I was her "Son," and I told her vice versa.) I cried nearly half the way home that someone that healthy with obviously YEARS ahead of them has been tortured by dementia, and how the family must feel.
My own family has been hit on my inlaw side with Alzhiemers, and it's a nasty dz! I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy! Never forget HOW BAD the family feels, and the toll it has taken on the caregivers daily to see their family member confused and not know them. I have seen really intelligent people try to "re-orient" them, and torture theirselves, and the patient in a grieving and gruelling no win situation.
I never blame a family for not being there in these GRIEF FILLED times, and even if they do bring comfort to the patient- it's temporary, and it will be forgotten. It is sad. My patient made a huge impact on my life, and my career. She was a very sweet lady, and it just took a small miracle- and we connected. That reward, if I never get another, was the best so far- and cherish that memory.
The best we can do, is the best only WE can do. But please, give the family patience. Unless you have been through this personally- nothing can describe the pain of losing someone to Dementia. It is Hell on Earth. It every bit wants your sanity, as bad as the person with it. The family meant no harm, but are probably just DESPERATE!