My name is Scerenity and I’d like to share something with you that may touch you if you are caring for a loved one.
I just started working as a Unit Secretary in a Nursing Home in Florida. Today while at work, it came to my attention that one of the residents was nearing death and had nobody to be with him. Hospice is involved, but they don’t necessarily sit and hold your hand. He may have died since I left work, or he may live another few days, but certainly not more than that. I asked if he had any family, and learned that he only has one relative and that they live out of state and have no immediate plans to come and see him. They also told me that he is a mean old man and grabs and swats anyone that tries to help him. The CNA’s (Nursing Assistants) don’t like being assigned to him because of the way he acts. The nurses probably don’t like to go in his room either, because he even refuses medicine and it is so frustrating to try to force him when you know he doesn’t want it.
I asked if I could be allowed to go and sit with him for a little while. We were over staffed for once and there were plenty of people that could handle the phones for a while. I was almost caught up on my other duties. They said that I could if I really wanted to, but I didn’t have to do that. They said that he is mean and won’t appreciate it. They said he wouldn’t even open his eyes or acknowledge that I was there. They said to be very careful because he was as likely to slap me as to ignore me. They said he wouldn’t talk to me. They said I was foolish to even try. I was ready to use my lunch break if they didn’t want me to go on their time. I was given an hour to spend with him and I took some work with me.
A nurse and aide were literally fighting with him to give him a suppository when I arrived at his door, so I discretely backed out and waited for them to leave. Then I went in and quietly said hello and touched his hand. He didn’t swat me, but he did open his eyes to see who was there. The look that I received was one that said, “What do you want? What are you going to do to me?” This man wasn’t mean; he was just plain scared of what was happening to him and what was yet to come.
I told him that I’d like to just sit and visit with him if that was okay. He closed his eyes. I rubbed his forearm soothingly and talked to him about the weather and how hot it is outside. I chattered on for a bit, just as if he was talking back, but of course he was trying his darndest to ignore me. I reached up and turned off the bright overhead light that was shining in his eyes and he snapped his eyes open. I smiled and asked if that was better. He blinked, opened his eyes again, and then closed them. I asked if he would like a drink of water and put the straw to his lips, but he clamped his lips so tight I thought he would break his frail little jaw. I reassured him that he didn’t have to do anything that he didn’t want to. That included drinking anything. I got a washcloth and wet it with cold water, and wiped his forehead and cheeks with it. He seemed to like that.
Somehow my finger ended up in his hand and he grabbed it like a baby grabs your finger and squeezed and held on as if holding on to a lifeline. I felt encouraged. They had drawn the curtain around his bed, blocking out the sun light from the window. I asked if he would like the curtain drawn back, but got no response. When I stood to pull it back however, he squeezed my hand with all his strength. I guess he thought I was leaving him.
I did pull the curtain back and described the view through the window. The dried up lake, the path around it with all the walkers out for a stroll, the flowering trees. He finally turned his head the slightest bit and barely opened his eyes for a second. I did notice, however that his jaw eased up a little at the same time. He was relaxing just a tad.
Encouraged, I started stroking his forehead and cheek. He relaxed a little more. I looked around his room trying to get a clue as to what to talk about and spotted a book. I asked him to let go of my finger for a second and I would get the book. He tightened his grip again. I promised that I wouldn’t go away, and that I wouldn’t do anything that he didn’t want me to. He let my finger go. I got the book and found out that it was a church hymnal from a church in Tennessee. Most of the hymns were unfamiliar to me, so I started reading him the words of the first verse of every song. He seemed to like that, so I kept going.
I finally found one that I recognized and asked if I could sing it for him. I apologized for a creaky voice, and sang “Amazing Grace”. Now I don’t sing well with music, but without it I am awful. I guess he didn’t mind though, because when I looked up he was watching me. He closed his eyes, however, just as soon as I looked at him. Sly little fox. So I kept going, chattering while I flipped through the book, singing the songs I knew?. “Rock of Ages,” “In The Garden,” “Jesus Loves Me” and “Wonderful Words of Life.” While I was singing one of my Grandfather’s favorites, “Just As I Am”, I knew all the words; so I looked at him as I sang. Although no sound was coming out of his mouth, he was surely singing along with me; because his lips were moving right along with mine. He had also loosened his grip on the bed sheet and allowed me to hold his hand in mine. Mean old man, Indeed! Lonely and scared is more like it!
Pat, my supervisor came and got me after an hour. She had relieved me and now was needed to help serve dinners. I had to go back to work. He opened his eyes and looked right at her and said, “I want to get up.” She almost dropped her teeth. This man has been in and out of consciousness at least for today, and apparently does not talk to anyone. He has refused to get out of bed, or to eat or drink. He was quite vocal; he wanted to get UP!
Pat told him that someone would come in later and get him up and he closed his eyes again. I told him I would see him before I went home. He of course, didn’t acknowledge my comment. The spell was broken; I had lost contact with him.
After I clocked out for the night, I went back to his room, to sit for a spell. He opened his eyes as soon as I came in and spoke to him and didn’t take them off me while I was there. I asked if he would like me to sit a while, he shook his head no. I didn’t want to press, so I said okay. I told him I would see him tomorrow, he shook his head no. I told him that I understood. So I just leaned over and kissed his forehead and said “Good-bye my Friend – Safe Journey.”
My Prayer is that he won’t be there when I go back to work. I pray that he will have gone home, to his final resting-place. I just don’t want to see that mean old man again, and that’s all there is to it!.