When I became a nurse, never did it crossed my mind or planned to bear the direction of my career towards taking care of the elderly. But, as years went by, I realized that all along, the road map of my professional career as a nurse, has been laid in front of me…and that is to be one of the team of nurses who play a salient role in making the lives of the elderly worth-living with dignity, until they pass on to the life hereafter.
We think they lost it. We presume, they are on that stage where lucid memory and cognition have left them. We may wonder, even question: what kind of life are they living? Are they living, or just existing?
We call them Residents, not Patients. The reason being: this place is where they stay for the rest of their remaining lives. They live in a skilled nursing care facility, their Home.
They do some unexpected things, and say some unexpected comments, although in the most part, they are confused and disoriented. The common questions that they ask repeatedly are: “Where is my room?” or “What time is lunch (although lunch has just been served)?” or “When is my daughter/son coming (although they just left)?” One resident thinks that she owns the apartment (her room) and she is renting a space to two other tenants (her roommates), and she needs to collect their monthly rental dues.
You will be amazed, because in a least expected moment, they will show sense of orientation either to time, place, or person. One resident approached me, asking where her nurse is, and when I asked her why, she answered: “because I want to turn in my hearing aid. I want her to keep it before I go to bed.” Bingo time is the most awaited event of the day, and many of them could still play it right!
They also enjoy each other’s company, talking about special occasions, like the monthly Candle Light Dinner. I can’t help but over-hear an excited group talking about it. “Candle Light Dinner is tonight.” One resident commented. “I know. We have Elvis as the entertainer.” Said another. “Do you know why we have candle light dinner?” Asked another. The group answered in chorus: “No. Why?” Her answer made me laugh: “So we will not see what we are eating. Left-over food.”
Every day, for the past 18 years and counting, I am in the midst of this so-called “geriatric” population. Yes, it was a choice, not a force of need for a job. And, all these years, I love and enjoy doing it. There hasn’t been a single boring day at work, and each night when I go to bed, I look forward to wake up the next day, prepare to go to work, and be with them.
(updated: May 2014)