A Piece of Nursing Wisdom for Senior Care
Marijke Durning | NursingLink
The vast majority of these “chronics” had some sort of dementia, the most common of which was Alzheimer’s disease. These patients had gotten to the point that they could no longer walk or go to the toilet by themselves, or even eat on their own. When it was my turn to care for the “chronics,” I approached it as a routine task that had to be done. I gave the women (very rarely were there men) all the physical care they needed: I bathed them, got them in and out of bed, provided them with food and drink, changed dressings, and did other nursing tasks. When I did speak with them, I was as pleasant as I could be, but I always kept in mind that caring for these kind of patients was a job duty.
My friend’s approach was much different. When she went into her patients’ rooms, you often wouldn’t see her again for hours. Not only did she provide the physical care I did, she sat with the patients, combed their hair, did their nails, and spent time with them, providing them with the companionship they sorely lacked. She knew what the patients needed beyond the usual physical care, and it was in her to give it to them.
I saw what she did. I understood what she did. I just didn’t know how to do it myself.
Many Years Later
Over the years, I’ve cared for many patients with dementia, some for better, some for worse. With time and experience, in both life and nursing, I began to realize that I wasn’t giving these “chronics” all the care they needed or the care they deserved.
The older version of me made an effort to learn more about elderly patients. I listened as they told me bits and pieces of their stories. I listened as patients’ family members told me stories of the patient’s younger years. I began to learn the value of sitting down and spending time with a patient, even if she didn’t know who I was. I began appreciating the stories, even if I was hearing them for the nineteenth time. I began to understand that nursing was more than the standard routines of bathing, feeding, changing dressings, and giving medications.
I regret those years where I didn’t appreciate the gift I had when I was a young nurse, but I try not to dwell on them. Since those days, I’ve become an advocate for elderly care and while it’s doubtful I’ll ever reach the comfort and ease of my friend with her patients, I now have the understanding that age and wisdom give. And I hope if I’m ever a senior who needs this type of care, my nurse will have had the opportunity to learn this too. It’s a lesson well worth learning.