Nursing Home Blues

Making my after dinner rounds at the nursing home, I'm rushing down the hall hoping everyone is asleep. I have notes to write, order to transcribe, doctors to call, appointments to make. Please let it stay quiet tonight. At the last door, about to turn and head back to the desk I hear sniffling, quiet barely there weeping, a child-like voice in the darkened room, "I wanna go home". Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Nursing Home Blues

I peek into the night-light lit darkness and she sees me; The plaintive voice whispers, the old wrinkled hand reaches for me. I step in and reach for her fingers brushing the tips with mine. Sitting up slowly She pats the bed next to her moves an inch or two to make room tries to smile asking me to sit and stay. I bend to hear her better, her roommate is snoring lightly. Soft, paper thin, blue veins on the back of her shriveled hand I trace with my index soft. Whimpering with great heaves of shuddering old lady breath in my left ear. I have so much work to do, so many patients, so many medications to give, so many old people to check on.

"Please" she's begging now, grabbing my hand tighter, lifts my chin with her other hand, forcing me to see her watery blue-gray eyes.

"Im-a-wanna-go home" Italian, 'no-speak-a-the-englaise'.

And me, no speak-a-the Italiano.

But, this conversation needs no words. I can tell from the voice, almost a keening, the barely concealed sobs, the deep deep down hurt- confusion and unspeakable sadness, it's universal-I wanna go home.

They all wanna go home-think they're going home, talk about going home. Someone's coming to get them tomorrow, later next week, in June, at Christmas. Their husband, their wife, son, parents, granddaughter, coming to take them home. Only they aren't. Ever. Not today, not later, not next year.

This lady, this forgotten human being lives in a nursing home and she's got the blues-got'em bad tonight. It's about 90 degrees in her room, yet she's cold. I sit on the edge of her bed- a major infraction, and sigh.

She points to pictures on the wall. "Me-momma, me-poppa, me baby" she wants me to know she has loved ones, was once a loved-member of a family, part of something.

Tears wind their slow journey following the wrinkles on her cheeks, get caught in the crease at the corner of her mouth, and finally drip off her chin, land on my younger smoother hand and dry there. I rub her hand as she cries, pat her back, smooth her thin strands of hair and touch her face. She grabs me around the neck pulls me in close for a hug, crying.

She smells like powder, I croon some sounds tut-tutting, and shushing her as I would a small hurt child. That's who's crying, the little lost sad girl inside this ancient body. "It's okay shussssh" ,I whisper, We love you, we take care of you". It isn't hard work-but it's powerfully sad. I feel my heart beating against her old old chest, I hear a distant painful cry down the hall and I have to go. I kiss her lined face, she presses my tear stained hand to her disappearing lips and gasps her good-night. She pats her heart and pats my chest where my heart is. We are friends. I am her family. I am her nurse. Buona Sera bella.

Specialty: Pediatrics, geriatrics

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That was beautiful. Just beautiful.

Specializes in Geriatrics.

That is so true in a nursing home. I use to work in one for years and it is so sad how people can treat their own family.

Specializes in Geriatrics.

Beautiful. I too work LTC and it is truly a labor of love. I don't think anything else would ever fulfill me the way that making lives better at the end of the spectrum does. These ladies and gentlemen deserve our love and respect and it is obvious you have a wonderful heart. The people you take care of are blessed.

Specializes in hospice, corrections.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you all nurses that work in nursing homes/long term care. You truly are angels. I know I am not one who can work there. When we did our clinicals at the nursing home I came home every day and cried. Thank you, for taking care of our elderly when their families either can't or won't.:saint::bow::w00t:

Oh that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being such a wonderful, caring nurse.

Very touching tears brought to my eyes

Specializes in Oncology&Homecare.

The best part of our job is the ability to make a difference. You were this woman's angel. Bless you and thank you for sharing your story.:hug:

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

Oh, and I thought I was so used to this sort of thing.......suddenly I'm tearing up unexpectedly, which makes it difficult (to say the least) to see what I'm typing.

What an achingly sad and beautiful story. Thank you for sharing the experience of your time with that precious lady. :redpinkhe

This made me cry. This precious woman and her story are so touching. You have a REAL gift for writing as well as comforting your patients. Thank you very much for sharing it.

Specializes in Pediatrics, Geriatrics, LTC.

Thank you all for your kudos and comments. I am moved to write every day at work and have started a blog. There's just so much to say, my own heart is full and it has to come out or it would crush me. Thanks for reading and understanding. I had hoped my feelings would be understood. Peace.

It's beautiful that you took time out of your busy schedule to give her the comfort she needed in the moment- I've worked with many others who would give a teorifice "you're gonna be fine, now go to sleep" and simply walk on by in similar situations. Homesickness is one of the most heart-breaking things I've seen working in LTC. It's not like a kid at camp who has two or three weeks left before he or she can return to the loving arms of his or her parents- it's homesickness without respite. She is blessed to have someone like yourself who cares deeply enough about her to set aside their own long list of concerns in order to show her loving-kindness.