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Olden Times and Ancient Rhymes

Nurses Article   (4,831 Views | 7 Replies | 681 Words)

VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

8 Followers; 142 Articles; 249,960 Profile Views; 9,734 Posts

A holiday decorating party for residents of an assisted living facility reminds a nurse that the gift of Christmas memories far outshines the sparkling lights on the tree and the glittery packages beneath.

Olden Times and Ancient Rhymes

It was the official opening of the holiday season at my assisted-living facility: a twelve-foot tree, fresh from the farm, stood in the corner of the great room as boxes and boxes of decorations were brought downstairs from their hiding place in the activities storage room. The kitchen staff brought out their best dishes and put fancy cookies and delicate sandwiches on them to tempt the residents and family members who streamed through the front door, many of whom were dressed in outfits that no one with an ounce of fashion sense would be caught dead in at any other time of the year; resident assistants rushed about in a sort of organized chaos that only the practiced eye would note as different from the usual routine; while we department heads tried to conduct the necessary business even as we too were caught up in the spirit of the day.

At two o'clock sharp, the residents who could not ambulate independently were assembled in front of the tree as those who were able opened the boxes of red-and-gold ornaments and began to place them on the lush, dark-green branches.

A local entertainer strummed his guitar and sang Christmas carols---actual Christmas carols!---in a faulty tenor which meandered in and out of the melody, undoubtedly without the permission of its owner. Adult children chatted with their elderly parents in between songs, with the occasional shout into a deaf ear punctuating the pine-scented air:

"I SAID, DO YOU REMEMBER THAT SONG?"

A staffer, answering the front-desk phone as quietly as possible, nonetheless earned a glare and a sharp rebuke from a nearby family member who reminded her that "these people are trying to enjoy this, you know".

But what made this holiday gathering extra special for me was seeing the weathered faces of residents glow into beauty as they began to sing along........men and women who couldn't tell you what they'd eaten for lunch just two hours before, lifting their voices in the old carols whose words still resounded in their memories.

I watched our lovely Leona, who no longer recognizes her own daughter, belting out every single verse of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" as if she were once again the church-choir soprano of her Chicago youth. I saw the tears on the face of little Anna, whose husband died this past summer, as she doubtless reminisced about the sixty-four Christmases they celebrated together. I listened as tone-deaf Gerald, who used to be a Methodist minister, followed along in his lusty basso voice the strains of the ancient "Adeste Fideles".

And as I observed the peace that fell over the gathering while the closing verse of "Silent Night" was sung, I was reminded of my own Christmases past and the people, many of whom are now long gone, who made them some of my most precious memories. I thought about my maternal grandmother, whom I suspected of being Santa Claus until I was eight and then found out I'd been right all along, and how she bought presents all year and then loaded up her old Rambler on Christmas Eve with literally dozens of brightly wrapped packages.

I recalled my parents, who made life hard for me much of the time, but who showered me with love and made me feel special at Christmastime. I also found myself longing---almost---for the Christmases when my kids were little; though we were poor, we somehow never lacked for anything during the holidays, and best of all, they learned what generosity of spirit and a little faith could do at this magical, mystical time of the year.

Maybe I'm just getting old too, but each Christmas means something a little different than the last......and my understanding of what it's all about grows deeper with the passing years. Olden times and ancient rhymes, and memories to share........thanks to my residents, these things will forever play a carol of love, not only at Christmastime but all through the year.

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.

8 Followers; 142 Articles; 249,960 Profile Views; 9,734 Posts

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jaelpn specializes in Skilled geriatric nursing care.

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I, too, work in an Assisted Living with alzheimer/dementia residents. I sure see a lot of Christmas spirit within them; when all memories may be a lapse in time, the gentleness of song sure can bring a sparkle into their eyes. Thanks for sharing your story- faith can go a long way :tree:

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cherryames1949 has 27 years experience and specializes in Oncology&Homecare.

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Nothing will bring memories of our youth to mind quicker than Christmas. The tree, the carols and the cookies all conjure up memories of Christmas past. Thank you for sharing your Christmas story with us. It brought tears to my eyes. Merry Christmas to you and yours.:tree:

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219 Posts; 3,080 Profile Views

It seems that no matter how old, infirm or confused our residents get, if they celebrated Christmas as children then Christmas lives in them forever. I've seen residents we thought were lost to us, totally consumed by dementia, spring back to life again at the smell of spruce and the sound of a few chords on the piano. They may not realize what year it is or that familiar faces of long ago are long gone now, but they know it's Christmas.

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VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

8 Followers; 142 Articles; 9,734 Posts; 249,960 Profile Views

It seems that no matter how old, infirm or confused our residents get, if they celebrated Christmas as children then Christmas lives in them forever. I've seen residents we thought were lost to us, totally consumed by dementia, spring back to life again at the smell of spruce and the sound of a few chords on the piano. They may not realize what year it is or that familiar faces of long ago are long gone now, but they know it's Christmas.

Well said. And it's true........Christmas seems to bring out the wonder in us all over again, no matter how old or jaded or forgetful we are. So may it ever be. :heartbeat

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Brian has 16 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in CCU, Geriatrics, Critical Care, Tele.

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Thanks for sharing your story! Music and the human brain have a magical connection. It's not just xmas music, I think it is all music. It's an lovely thing to witness! Years ago, while working on an Alzheimer unit, during the music activities, patients able to recall songs of their younger years and singing along with perfect lyrics and rhythm with huge smiles on their faces. These same people didn't recognize their own family members and couldn't have a logical discussion.

One of the residents, had some neurological damage, and wheelchair bound. Could not speak in words, but could only repeat the same sound over and over, "wrah, wrah, wrah". She could point and nod to assist in attempting to communicate what she was trying to tell you. As you can imagine, this was incredibly hard for her, the ability to think, but unable to verbalize. However, during the music activity sessions, she would sit there with tears running down her cheeks, singing along with the songs of her generation, some how music aloud her brain and speech impairment to function, after the music session, her ability to verbalize her speech would vanish and would continue to speak in her repetitive "wrah, wrah, wrah". She was a joy to take care of despite the communication barriers.

Needless to say, she was not the only person with tears, it was a very powerful and moving site every time you witnessed it. Music is amazing!

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VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

8 Followers; 142 Articles; 9,734 Posts; 249,960 Profile Views

You're right, Brian, music does the most amazing things! I've seen that happen too---worked in a lot of LTCs, where people who usually verbalize only with grunts or unintelligible sounds will somehow rediscover their voices through music therapy, or even the singing of old familiar hymns during a facility church service. I remember in particular this one woman who hadn't spoken a word in years, but the instant the visiting priest began the Eucharistic prayers, she would sing the responses in a high, clear voice: "Jesus, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us". Ordinarily, she would merely make noises like "unnnnnhhhhhhhhh" and "gidditgidditgiddit".........but let someplay play the opening bars of the Gloria and she'd burst into song. :)

I just wish I could carry a tune---I absolutely love to "make a joyful noise", but I sound like a cat with its tail caught under a rocking chair.

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Jonesskky RN has 3 years experience and specializes in EMERGENCY!!!.

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Maybe I'm just getting old too, but each Christmas means something a little different than the last......and my understanding of what it's all about grows deeper with the passing years.

Very true...it's like the older I get, the more Christmas is not just about "you" but what you can do for others. Good Story.

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