Essay written for Human Growth & Dev about my volunteer expenence in nursing home:
Picture, if you will, a frightened nine year old girl pinned in a corner of a noisy, smelly nursing home by a wild haired, wild eyed old man muttering what seems to be curses in many languages. That was me, circa 1972.
At this point I must bore my gentle reader with a bit of background. My father was a devout Christian who took as his mission the charge to visit the sick and elderly. We spent many Sunday afternoons making the rounds of nursing homes and hospitals. The powers that were in those days had emptied out the state mental hospitals and many of those patients found themselves in nursing homes.
Fortunately that is not my only nursing home memory. I don't remember many of the individuals we visited, but I do remember the care and attention that Dad lavished on them. Some of them seemed to live for his visits. They knew they were still important to somebody, somewhere.
Now I find myself volunteering to assist activities in a local nursing home for class credit. I will attempt to gather a few impressions each time for your perusal.
9/11 We lead exercises. Residents seem to enjoy themselves. We close with "Proud to be an American" and spending the anniversary of 9/11 in the company of men and women of the Greatest Generation makes me very proud to be an American.
Next activity is "Name that Smell." Participants close their eyes, sniff and identify peanut butter, lemon, onion and other foods. Great idea for an activity but I wish we could use substances that might jog more memory, like motor oil for the men, sweet olive leaves for women and the scent of baking tea cakes for both.
We go through the Alzheimers ward to collect the few residents who are able to play Bingo. One woman talks to herself constantly in a loud, shrill voice. I am horrified for the workers, her captive audience, until they tell me that she literally never sleeps. Then, I am heartbroken for the patient.
9/18 Outdoor activity. Mr. X will happily pull weeks from the flower bed until someone stops him. I help him until ants eat me up. An old farmer's hands are, apparently, impervious to ants.
I remember Mrs. Z from my high school days. It hurts to see this vibrant teacher now frail and apathetic. I talk with her a little while and ask her to teach me some Spanish words. Then, she comes to life.
9/24 More flower watering, exercise and memory games. Residents frequently ask me when Bingo starts. I am puzzled by the allure of Bingo but happy to see their anticipation.
One of the fears that people have regarding LTC is the idea of losing their identity, being just a body to be fed, watered and pushed from place to place. The people I meet here definitely still have personalities.
10/2 Rousing game of "Flyswatter Volleyball" followed by room visits. One resident wears a somewhat frightened expression most of the time, as befits a Katrina survivor. She'll never know how if makes my day when she does smile.
10/9 Devotional time. One resident enthusiastically quotes Scripture along with the leader. A white haired husband sits gazing at his white haired wife like the pride of his life. Another couple has received some bad medical news. The staff enters into their distress with the comfort of friends. I am touched by the love in this place and am trying to think of excuses to come back and visit certain people.
To follow up the story of the little girl in the corner, I was in no way touched or harmed, just scared to death. My mother then convinced my Dad that a nursing home might not be the best place for a child to spend Sunday afternoons, and I avoided nursing homes for a long time afterward.
Having completed my class assignment, I walk the hall of heroes. In this place, the workers are caring and attentive, and the residents are heroes for their lives of service while active and their grace and good humor with which they bear their infirmities. As a soon-to-be nursing student, I find myself drawn to specialize in Geriatrics.
In the immortal words of Jerry Garcia, "What a long, strange trip it's been!"
May 17, '09
wonderful essay. I really enjoyed it, it was very touching. thank you for sharing
May 17, '09
you started out with, "now i find myself volunteering to assist activities in a local nursing home for class credit. i will attempt to gather a few impressions each time for your perusal."
- i thought this strange wording. "finding oneself volunteering to assist activities in a local nursing home for class credit" sounds to me like it was a mistake, you were forced into it, or you had no part in the decision to do it. this was a class assignment which is the reason you were there. why make some trumped up reason for it?
- perusal means to examine and study; to learn from. as i read on i was expecting you to identify for the reader what you learned about each activity you observed. in all cases you described the activities and what you observed, but in almost all you did not relate what you learned relative to growth and development concepts which is what this class is about, isn't it? what textbook behavior did you see? this essay would be ok for an english class, but i think the instructor is looking to see if you saw the application of some of the growth and development principles and concepts that you have been learning here in the behavior and actions of these residents.
"one of the fears that people have regarding ltc is the idea of losing their identity, being just a body to be fed, watered and pushed from place to place."
- i've worked in ltc for a long time. the patients feared that they would be forgotten and their deaths go unnoticed by family, that they were put there to be gotten rid of by their families. is this important to the overall theme of this paper?
"i am touched by the love in this place and am trying to think of excuses to come back and visit certain people."
- "trying to think of excuses to come back" makes this sound like you need something to make you come back because you really don't want to. it's negative in connotation and in opposition to your later statement that you want to specialize in geriatrics.
your final quote "what a long, strange trip it's been!" has strange
or strange trip
really been the theme of this essay? that's not what it sounded like to me. it was more of seeing things from adult eyes but remembering what your child eyes had once seen. what do they call that? oh, yes, wisdom and understanding that comes with experiencing life. that ties in with what you originally started out with which was a good theme sentence (although you really didn't follow through completely on it): i will attempt to gather a few impressions each time for your perusal.
the whole essay doesn't really have an overall concept that holds it together.
the purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~mortimer adler
May 17, '09
Daytonite, I am utterly dumbfounded by your attack on my essay on my experience in a long term care facility.
If you were to share your deepest emotions with me, I would not critique your grammar
or your method of literary construction.
Two major issues that I explored were facing a fear from long ago, and finding peace and joy in a place where many people fear to go. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I try to encourage people not to avoid visiting nursing homes. They might be pleasantly surprised by people there who are still worth knowing.
I received an A for the class and an A+ for the essay.
Congratulations on your graduation.
May 17, '09
My post was not an attack. I was giving you constructive criticism. How was I to know you had already handed this in and been graded? On the other hand, it is rather sly of you to now say you got an A+ for the essay. What was the point in posting it, anyway? You posted it, typo errors and all, with no preface about why. What did you think people would assume your reason for posting it would be? If the two issues you say you explored were (1) facing a fear from long ago, and (2) finding peace and joy in a place where many people fear to go I have to say you missed the mark. (1) you don't talk about how your fears of long ago have been resolved, and (2) who's peace and joy are you referring to? Yours or the patients? You ultimately never address either. Then, you left that thought about your childhood fear hanging at the end. You gave all the examples of your feelings, but never stated what your final change of thinking is. You just didn't complete the circle. It also would have been nice to say that you wanted to join the people who are the care givers to this group of citizens. I thought it interesting that you kept yourself isolated from the nurses by saying you want to specialize in Geriatrics, not that you want to be a geriatric nurse. There is a difference. I still have trouble with your saying this whole thing was a strange trip. Nothing about it was unusual. Everything except for disease symptoms you observed was normal behavior for their age. That is why I do not think the quote belongs there. After all is said and done, I guess one shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Had I been grading the essay I wouldn't have been as kind in grading it.
Jun 9, '09
That was a great essay and it opened my eyes again. People will always have something to say......good or bad. Its always some one out there that has to point things out "matter of factly". And what do you know....you still got an A!
Good Job and Good Luck with nsg sch.