My buddy Joe
Do not take for granted the time that you have with your patients/residents; learn to listen to their story and open up your heart. Get to know who you are taking care of- and your career in nursing will go beyond what you ever learned in your study books. My buddy Joe taught me how to live in the world of Alzheimer's and see life differently.
The first time I met Joe, I suddenly felt like I was in the presence of my own father who had passed away a few months prior. His stature, the way his blue eyes could tell a story... it was like God giving me this second chance to find some closure and acceptance to my own father's sudden death at 59. Nursing is more than a career and paycheck to me- it's life. I have always been intrigued with the medical field- as a young kid, I watched "Rescue 911". I wanted to be a hero- to give someone a second chance at life. I wanted someone to come up to me, wrap their arms around me and tell me that whatever heroic move I made, I somehow saved their life.
As a nurse working in an Assisted Living in the Alzheimer/Dementia community, I don't do heroic medical techniques. I pass meds, I check blood sugars and blood pressures, and I patch up skin tears, tie shoes and occasionally pick someone up off the floor. I don't intubate or hook someone up to an IV. I do, however, try to bring my residents a little piece of the world. Their "world" is the halls, the bird aviary room, three meals, activities and snack time. During my downtime, Joe and I would take a walk outside. He would help me take out the trash, and he would tell me about his passtime of going to the casino. He had Alzheimer's- so at times, his stories would get a little mixed up but I would still nod my head and follow his story.
One day, as we were walking outside, I found a dandelion ready for a "blow and wish." I picked it from the courtyard and explained to him that when I was a little girl, I would pick one of these out of my yard and blow it into the wind, making a wish and dreaming it would come true. I told him to try this... so he closed his eyes for just a moment, gave his "wish" a thought, and blew. He said, ,"I wished that I could play the machines and something would come out." (slot machines at the Casino) ... I knew I couldn't make that wish come true for that moment of clarity that he had for his wish, but I decided that I would try my best. As we headed back indoors after grabbing a bag of fresh popped popcorn, we walked to the lounge. I dug in my pockets for a few quarters, I handed the change to him, and told him to put it in the "machine" - he hit a button that I told him was the "lucky one" (diet Dr. Pepper- his favorite) and out popped a soda! His eyes teared up and he smiled and said, "I WON!!!" ..
In the evening times, he would become a different person. Angry, anxious and lost in a world of his own. Sundowning, they say. When he was getting combative or argumentive with the caregivers or other residents, I'd take his hand and walk him to my office. Sometimes, he would be telling me stories that were quite off the wall, other times he took a snooze in the chair. He often carried his Bible around- although he was no longer able to see that great even with his reading glasses on. I would open it up to Psalms, read some scripture to him and he would close his eyes, take in what I was reading, and tell me to "go on..." My buddy Joe believed in God and drew me closer to my own faith. When he was losing his short term memory, no longer able to recognize his own daughter's face... he was still able to lay down his heart for God.
Joe eventually had to move out and go on to another place- but last week I visited him. His eyes were a little more lost in the dark world of Alzheimer's... he was now using a cane, and a little more tired. I walked him to his room, sat next to him while he was in his comfy recliner. His old tattered Biblelayed next to him on his night stand. As he rocked back and forth in his recliner, I read some Psalms to him. He closed his eyes, said to "Go on" .. and soon I heard him snoring away. I gently woke him up, walked him over to his bed, and kissed him on his forehead. "Thank you sweetie pie"...he said. He closed his eyes and fell fast asleep.
What made me get into nursing? Maybe it was because I knew that the older we get, the more we need a friend. The more life means, the conversations become more meaningful. All along I thought I needed to be the hero, but Joe knew better- he became the man that taught me about faith, love and patience- he was my hero in disguise. I see the world a little different now- and my buddy Joe sure enough opened my eyes- he brought the world to me.Last edit by Joe V on Sep 19, '12
jaelpn has '4+ nursing, 12 years medical field' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Assisted living- dementia care'. From 'Somewhere, IL'; 33 Years Old; Joined Dec '05; Posts: 48; Likes: 264.Sep 16, '12Thanks for this, it was a very enjoyable and moving read!
In the past I also worked with older people with Alzheimer's in a nursing home and in the community and I found it really rewarding.Sep 18, '12Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. story like yours makes me want to work with geriatric population.Sep 19, '12wat a beautiful story u got here. u are definately Joe's hero also. very inspiring, lovelySep 20, '12I am a nurse for an Assisted Living and Specialty Care Assisted Living. Thank you for your story. It reminds me of why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place. It is an honor to care for this population that has seen and lived through so much.Sep 20, '12It is such a privilege to form a bond with another human being, especially those of older population who have so much to offer -- their life stories and wisdom, becoming their surrogate family... Every moment you give them the care and love, you make each day meaningful as they approach the conclusion of their lives, or as their mind fades away. If that isn't heroic, I don't know what is.
The state of elder care in this country is atrocious. Dedicated nurses like you are the saving grace.Sep 20, '12Thanks for such an awesome story. We may not all be starting IV's or complex technical tasks, but each of us is equally vital to our patients.
A number of years ago I looked after a gentleman in late stages of Alzheimer's. When I saw his name, I wondered if he was the same gentleman who had donated a camp to Girl Guides many years earlier (having been a leader for many years). So one day I asked him and he was. I told him how many girls have had life changing experiences on that piece of land and he started to cry. After that day everytime he saw me he would say "There's my girl!" and hold out a hand to me; although if anyone asked him he had no idea why he felt that way about me. Somehow, he remembered that he and I shared something, even if he couldn't tell what it was. Working with dementia pts can be very rewarding and good nurses are so needed. I am glad you took the time for Joe.Oct 5, '12Thank you for reminding us that the elderly are called our elders because they know more than us, we can still learn from them no matter how dementia robs them of what little they have left. Thank you!
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