The Case of the Missing Dentures

My funny nursing experience occurred a few years ago when I was a new grad. I had been working in the ER fulltime and was on one of many long and dreaded night shifts. One of my patients was an older gentleman from a nursing home. During my initial assessment I went to introduce myself and check on him, he had only one concern to voice; “Where are my denture”?!?! Nurses Announcements Archive Article


The Case of the Missing Dentures

I attentively and carefully searched everywhere in his room, through his belongings and of course in the bedding for the missing dentures and couldn't find them anywhere. I assured the patient that his dentures must be back at the nursing home as I couldn't find them anywhere. With noted mild dementia, the patient continued to be preoccupied with his teeth for the next couple of hours. I was at a loss for what to do. I vaguely remember calling his nursing home and with little assistance on their behalf, was still unable to track down the dentures. All night the patient continued to call out about how his dentures were missing and if someone could just look for them. I became more and more frustrated about the so-called missing teeth. I was being pulled in many directions that night and felt terrible that I couldn't settle this man. His preoccupation wouldn't allow him to sleep or for others to have a quiet environment.

Out of frustration, I went to check on him again and as I approached his room one more last time a flash of white caught my eye. I took a closer look and sure enough, it was the MISSING dentures... sticking out from between the bed frame and the MATTRESS... like a smile staring at me. I started laughing and couldn't stop... all that time I was convinced there were NO DENTURES and sure enough, they were in front of my eyes!!!!

What made me recall this funny moment was a similar episode I had during my most recent shift in the same ER department last week. I had an older lady that was formed for her safety, a case of? delirium vs.? dementia. With my initial introduction and assessment, this lady asked me to find her glasses. Aware that her belongings had been locked up for safe keeping, I asked security to go through her belongings and find the MISSING glasses. Sure enough, there were no glasses to be found and PREOCCUPATION began again.

For the first five hours of my shift, the patient would call out for us, knock on the wall to get our attention, and begged everyone to find her glasses. I assured her that security had looked, with no avail. After countless explanations to my patient, I frantically called medical units for a magnifying glass or spare pharmacy Rx glasses so that this lady could have some piece of mind. I received a laugh from all the nursing units I called, thinking it was such an odd request. I sadly went to the patient again after 7 hours in my shift and told her the same thing I had told her numerous times earlier "security looked through your belongings and no glasses were found". With red-rimmed tearful eyes, the patient begged me to look again- as the glasses might be in her sweater or her pants.

I couldn't take the distraught that this women was feeling and decided to look for her and myself. I went to security and asked them if I could please look through the patient's belongings. I mentioned this is purely for peace of mind and promised not to bother them again. I slowly went through the pockets of the patients pants, jacket, and shirt.... with no glasses to be found. I then rechecked the purse and SURE ENOUGH, there were HER GLASSES.

I excitedly went to my patient and said I have a surprise for you... and showed her the GLASSES... she started crying and kissing my hand, then laughing. It was such a heartwarming and happy moment. I and other staff had quite the chuckle about this experience.

These examples remind us that despite impaired cognitive function, we really should try to LISTEN to our patients. They deserve the benefit of the doubt. Moments like these are funny and definitely remind us of the importance to look more carefully and take some patient preoccupations seriously!! It's worth going that little extra.

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Specializes in Critical Care,Ortho,Med Surg.

That's a great story, sometimes we DO forget the simple comforts especially in relation to patients with dementia. Sad really.


21 Posts

Sometimes we do tend to see pt according to their dx, this reminds us to treat them as one of us! thanks for sharing! Bles your heart! :redpinkhe


27 Posts

Specializes in spinal rehab.

We once had a case of the missing dentures for a few days. Eventually we realised that the demented patient sharing th room with the man who lost his dentures did not have any dentures coming in. Strangely the demented patient was now wearing a pair of dentures that would drop down whenever he spoke. It was a very funny realisation.

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