One very sad thing I learned when working with severely mentally retarded pts is that many many many
families completely abandon their children, usually after age 10. I was shocked @ all the charts I would read that would describe how families just stopped visiting these kids & it was always just after their child turned 10. For some parents it was just too hard for them, but from what I derived from most of the charts, a lot of parents just stopped making the trip. (My personal opinion is that for these parents, their little retarded kids just stop being "cute" after age 10.) I've actually sat up straight in bed gasping for air from a bad dream 2x in my life. Here's 1 of them:
I'd been floated on a NOC shift to a unit I'd never been to before & was doing rounds sometime in the middle of the night. I was about to go into 1 little boys' room to change him & repos him, when a male nurse who worked on the floor grabbed me & said, "Now, this one's our saddest case...this little boy's actually very intelligent & he came here to live with us a few years ago. His family just completely abandoned him, which is just so sad because unlike most of our residents here, he actually knows his family & responds to them...but they just left him here." So I went into the room & found this little boy on a mattress on the floor with a sheet over his heads & a flashlight, like he was reading under the covers, or something. When I pulled back the sheet, it was my little brother. So it was my family that had actually abandoned him here! And I remember thinking to myself in the dream, "I have to get permanently transferred to this unit so that I can take care of him myself!"
I know now where this dream came from. First of all, the place I worked at took excellent care of its residents, but it's a terrifying place for any child to ever have to see, let alone grow up in - it's an old-fashioned mental institution. The insides look exactly like the place in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
. I took care of a little boy there for awhile that was just a sweetheart...nonverbal, about 10 years old with blond hair & big blue eyes & he looked just like my little brother. And the 1st night I met him, he didn't especially respond to me, but I kinda had a "thing" for him b/c he looked so much like my brother, so I took extra special care of him. Like I said, he didn't respond to me all night, but when I went to tuck him into bed, I told him, "Now, I'm gonna be here all night...so if you need anything, just crawl out here - I'll find you, I promise." And several hours later, around midnight, or so, one of the girls came running to me, "Jessica, you just have to come look at this!" And I looked down the hallway and found this little guy 1-arm soldier dragging himself down the hallway. And I'd forgotten what I'd said to him when I'd put him to bed...didn't know what he was doing in the hallway until my co-worker said, "Well...you told him to come find you!" Turned out he was wet & needed to be changed:heartbeat .