Thursday, October 15, 2009

When I am Old, I will Wear Purple

This was the name of a poem we had to read in nursing school. I wear purple anyway. It is my favorite color. The idea was that when we are old, we will throw off inhibitions and just do as we like. Sounds great, but when you think about it, it is only as great as what lies beneath those inhibitions. If all it is is a desire to wear purple, you've got it made.

We watch this extremely boring video series in a group we are in right now. It is so boring that when we have guests, I want to apologize to them! But, one thing the man did say recently was that he has often heard that once people get to a certain point that their faculties don't work so well, what is really inside them comes out with no filter.

That might be true. I've seen cases where I knew that that was true. I have worked with dementia patients for years now. Then there are other times that I wonder if that was really inside of them or if it is just the brain disintegrating. It is an intimidating thought, though.

I've had two nurses recently who have been my patients. One was a head nurse, and boy was she awful! Demanding, critical, impatient, angry. The one who took her place when she passed away is a delight. She is just a total delight. She tells me, "whenever I fit into your schedule, dearie, just let me know." I told her that at 99 years or age, she is allowed to tell me what she wants and I will fit that into my schedule.

Then I had the "sweet Christian man" who would read the Bible and sing hymns with his wife every afternoon, but when I gave him a bath every Tuesday - whoa! I have never heard such vile things come out of my most wicked male patients! I once tried to stop him by telling him I was married, but he answered, "That is ok. I won't tell my wife, and you don't need to tell your husband." His contrast between holy and vile made me cringe. Then there was the day he was tired of my stock answer of no. (believe me, I tried many different types of no - "no, I am just not attracted to men in diapers." "yup, seen that before. I've got four boys at home." "shut up." Nothing worked.) So one day he attacked me. I kicked him, mid transfer, just booted him into bed. (no, not abuse, just a hey, get off me and get into bed, and not gently, either!) After that, he got cold baths. Doctor's orders were to soak for thirty minutes for a sore rear, but no doctor told me it had to be hot. The guy needed a few cold showers!

I think of this man when I battle with thoughts in my head that no one sees. Whether it is irritation, impatience, or anything worse, I think of him. There may come a day when I still am with it enough to have these thoughts, but not with it enough to have a filter between what I think and what I do. Sobering thought.

Then there is the downright hilarious that happens at work. We have a 103 year old lady. She is a bit obstinate. I have this theory about old people - they don't get to 100 without being a character! Well, we were trying to convince her to swallow her pills. She didn't want to. We kept trying. I tried to get her to drink chocolate milk. It is a treat, so perhaps the pill would go down with the milk. Nope. She didn't want that at all, and quick as a wink, grabbed the glass from my hand and threw it in my face and down the front of my uniform! Then she laughed. I served supper that evening in my skimpy little tank top I wear just because under my scrub top. Rinsed my top and left it to dry. And it is COLD! She giggled all supper when she saw me. So did many other of the old people. Funny how dementia didn't take away their sense of humor! And it is amazing how the sight of a skimpy tank will wake up sleeping men! I put my scrubs back on as soon as they were remotely dry.

At dinner, we had a problem with two ladies. One has a mental problem and she talks to herself. Talks, answers, giggles, laughs... it is a bit odd. She will get herself into a belly laugh for hours at times. Then we have another lady who is always worried and always talks. She makes some sense in that she talks about what she sees or thinks, but she just never quits. She is the "please help me" lady. We solved the problem - put the two of them at one table. They both talk and are both thrilled. Well, "Please help me" lady was worried about her pie over the weekend. She kept muttering about it. "It was cold. It was a cold pie. My pie is cold. It is a stone cold pie. Pie is sometimes hot, but this pie is cold." This went on for at least five minutes until I heard from her corner, "well, I've eaten cold pie before, and I'm still here." So she began to eat.

So, if you ever wondered, cold pie will not kill you.

One of my saddest patients is a lady named IC. She used to go to church where I used to go. We were in Bible study together. But then dementia began to set in. Two years ago, I took my son with me to work just to hang out with the old people and visit. IC spent the whole evening witnessing to him. She couldn't remember what she said thirty seconds ago, so she just kept having the same conversation over and over. Got to hand it to my boy - he stuck with it.

"So, boy, do you know Jesus?"


"And are you a Christian?"


"Oh, that is wonderful!"

five seconds later, "So, boy, do you know Jesus?"....

IC was a great lady. But now she has declined more. She has also developed an interest in a older man who also lives in the home. Unfortunately the man, while very polite, does NOT have dementia, and he is married! But IC likes to sit beside him and hold his hand or stroke his leg.

I tried last week to get her to stop. I went over and whispered in her ear, "Oh, IC, don't do that. That man is married." She giggled up at me, "but I don't have that philosophy!" and reached over to pat him some more. I decided I would intervene - the poor guy looked uncomfortable and not sure how to handle it. (besides, he has other issues, and punched another patient's lights out the day before, so I didn't want to take chances!) So, I took IC's hand, and pulled her up to walk with me. She looked over at me with disappointed conspiracy and said, "oh, I wish you didn't. I was almost to it."

Ummm, yeah... ummm... that is why we are walking the halls hand in hand right now. To keep you away from it!

But after a few steps, she turned to me again and asked, "Are you getting yours?"

Hoping she wasn't asking what I thought she was asking, but following my normal pattern of answering dementia patients in whatever vein of thought they are in for that second in a vague and cheerful way, I responded, "Yes, I am."

She then smiled a huge smile, and swung my hand up and down wildly a few times like two girls skipping, and said, "Well, goody for you! Goody for you!"

I give up. I think wearing purple will be mild. If that is all I do when I am old, I'll be delighted!

One last one. My Scottish gentleman who used to be a doctor. He is alternatively very with it and also hallucinating - but knows he hallucinates, so he is fun. He has a dry fun sense of humor and has always been very respectful of us helping him. But he also has one of the worst cases of diaper rash I have ever seen. It hurts. Washing it is very painful, and he tries to grit his teeth and take it. But every so often, he reminds me, "Be careful. That is a very delicate piece of equipment, you know." I'm used to that by now, but when this week he then looked down, clicked his tongue, shook his head slightly, and said in the sad tone of someone talking about a favorite car, "It hasn't seen much action recently, though, no it hasn't.", I almost lost it!

yup, I'll be happy if I just wear purple when I am old! One of my coworkers says we could write a sitcom based on a nursing home.

PS - my daughter is in bed with me, so she just sat up in her sleep and said, "we should flee... we need to flee from..... " Stretched a little more and groaned, and then said, "...doggies."

Ok, at least I should be dead by the time she hits a nursing home!

1 comment:

Angela said...

Wow! You really have to have a good sense of humor to work there. It's sobering to think what we'll be like when we get to that age. I hope I'm a sweet little old lady -- wearing purple too. :)