Elders Say the Darnedest Things!

As anyone who's ever worked with the elderly knows, every care facility has its "characters": the curmudgeon, the hothouse flower, the Church Lady. And the best-kept secret in the business is the hilarity that ensues whenever one of these folks offers his or her commentaries on everyday events. Specialties Geriatric Article


Elders Say the Darnedest Things!

Take Ed, our resident Oscar the Grouch. He's a World War II vet who also worked as a train conductor; his manner is gruff, and his language is often as colorful as the Oregon Ducks cap he wears. He enjoys nothing more than to wheel himself about the facility, advertising his presence by periodically calling out his own name, "Ed-DEEEEEEEEE!" or whatever occurs to him at the time.

So one night when he complained to me about "not bein' able to hear as good as I usedta", I checked his ears with the otoscope. Sure enough, he had a heavy buildup of cerumen in both ears, and I informed him of this as I put away the instrument and washed my hands. Next thing I knew, he was cruising down the hall announcing "Ear WAX!" to everyone he met along the way.........and grinning like the cat that ate the canary!

This is the same guy who once made a late-stage Parkinson's patient, who never even cracks a smile, break into hysterical laughter by hollering "STOP!! Yer mashin' m' boys!" at a CNA who was trying to straighten him up in his chair. He is also the same resident who made a humorously clumsy pass at me one evening when I was checking his blood sugar:

Ed: "Y' know, I need ta find me a woman."

Me: "Well, there are a lot of single ladies here......."

Ed (looking me up and down): "Nah......I think you'd do, though."

Me (chuckling): "I think my husband might have a problem with that, Ed. Besides, you don't want this old bag---you want a pretty young thing."

Ed (eyes twinkling madly): "Honey, I'll take any bag I can git!"

Then there's Elaine, who's well into her eighties, wildly demented, and as funny as they come. She is cheerfully profane, and she will bless you and curse you.......sometimes in the same breath. I was working with her roommate one late afternoon when she called out to me: "Hey, Mary!" (Elaine calls everyone either Mary or Philip, and to this day NOBODY, including her family, knows who Mary or Philip really are.)

Me: "What is it, Elaine?"

Elaine: "Why do you think I keep itching all the time? This itch is driving me crazy!"

Me: "I think it's because when we get older, our skin dries out a lot, and when it's dry, it itches sometimes."

Elaine (quizzically): "How do you know that? How old are you?"

Me: "I'm fifty, Elaine."

Elaine: "Oh, well, that explains it---you've got some years on me."

Me: "Oh, really? How old are you?"

Elaine: "I'm forty-three........and I'm PREGNANT! Can you believe that (stuff)?"

And there's Carol, Heaven bless her. She is seventy, looks fifty-five, and acts like she's nine. She's as full of mischief as any two-hundred-pound hemiplegic "kid" can be; having suffered two serious strokes, her impulse control is non-existent, and her dry wit and her barbed tongue, on top of her physical challenges, are too much for some staff members.........hence, I handle most of the day-to-day interactions with her. It's OK with me; I think she's got great comedic timing, and her one-liners are priceless.

It was late in the evening; Carol's roommate, who is only about three times more demented than Carol herself, was having a conversation with..........nobody. This drives Carol up the wall, especially when it goes on all day and half the night as it did that time. I went in to give her the bedtime dose of Lantus insulin, and she pantomimed "talks too much" with her good hand, rolled her eyes, and mouthed the words, "Quack, quack, quack!" This immediately struck me funny, and I snorted, which made her giggle, and then we both broke up, cackling madly while the roommate continued gabbling to herself. It wasn't very nice, and I made myself stop........but only as long as it took to get out of the room entirely!

Another time, I'd been off for a four-day stretch when Carol wheeled herself up to the nurses' station and announced loudly that she thought she'd hurt the feelings of the nurse who'd taken my place. "I TOLD HER YOU WERE A BETTER NURSE THAN HER BECAUSE YOU DON'T HURT ME WHEN YOU GIVE ME MY SHOTS!" she bellowed, obviously enjoying the effect her words were having on the same nurse, who was easily within earshot as she was standing at the neighboring nurses' station at that moment.......

She also has a fascination with Las Vegas and believes that she and her boyfriend, who lives in an assisted living facility a few miles away, will someday go there and get married. One day I went in and caught her halfway out of bed, having disengaged her personal alarm so that it wouldn't go off and spoil her plans to sneak out. I looked down at her, trying to be serious, and asked, "Carol, wherever in the world do you think you are going?"

Her eyes danced merrily as she responded: "Vegas. You wanna be my matron of honor?"

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

I'm a Registered Nurse and writer who, in better times, has enjoyed a busy and varied career which includes stints as a Med/Surg floor nurse, a director of nursing, a nurse consultant, and an assistant administrator. And when I'm not working as a nurse, I'm writing about nursing right here at allnurses.com and putting together the chapters for a future book about---what else?---nursing.

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Specializes in LTC, dialysis, L&D, ER, Family Practice.

This is hilarious! I love LTC for this reason alone...they make me smile.

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

108 Articles; 9,984 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

Yeah.......I'm on only my fourth day of vacation, and I already miss 'em!

Specializes in LTC, dialysis, L&D, ER, Family Practice.

we have a stella who calls us john and mary

too...wonder if they ever met???


157 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics, med/surg, LTC surveyor.

They are funny. I had one patient who told me, "Look, I am a big boy, I wear pull ups now!"

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

108 Articles; 9,984 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

That reminds me of George, who sings the old French song "Alouette" to let us know when he needs a change of briefs: "All-wet-a, I'm all-wet-a...........":lol2:

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Joe V

9 Articles; 2,454 Posts

Specializes in Programming / Strategist for allnurses.

ROFLM(bleep bleep)O

I loved these stories!

You have some great writing skills "Mary". :D

country mom

379 Posts

One can only hope that if someday, we reach an advanced age and suffer from dementia, that we can have a kind nurse such as yourself who can find humor in our confused antics and continue to see us as people worthy of being cared about. Thank you for the kindness and patience you bestow on your residents.


27 Posts

LOL!.. wow


30 Posts

I love taking care of my residents, they can be such a hoot!!

Mary is always lost and doesn't realize she lives in the LTC. The other night she was wondering if we had a room for her at this hotel. I told her we had a wonderful room for her and as I started pushing her, the CNA on her hall showed up to give her a shower. So we told Mary "We not only have a room for you but a nice hot shower to go with it. How's does that sound?" Mary replied, "Oh, that sounds absolutely wonderful!"

Then we have Harry, who is always lost, too, and usually wanders the halls looking for his car, his business, the railroad station, etc. When I take him to his room I always tell him I'm taking him to his house and he's in perfect agreement with me. His house has his name on it so that helps him identify it. Harry also has a bad habit of finding an empty room, laying down on the bed and going to sleep. Sometimes the room is only empty because the occupant is out for a little while..LOL


84 Posts

Specializes in M/S, SNU, Office, and Private Duty.

You are truely a special person! It takes something that I do not have to work in LTC and enjoy it! Thank You for your stories!


8 Posts

More, Please!

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