Role Reversal

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She wanted to talk to me.

She’s having trouble sleeping, but doesn’t want the kids to know. They already worry too  much about her. She doesn’t want to be a burden, already feels like she’s a burden.

Her daughter called her three times during our talk, our 20 minute visit.

They worry about her, they push her to do things for herself… walk more, exercise, socialize. But she’s tired of pushing herself.

She’s sad, and anxious, and not demented at all. She’s smart,  but her body can’t keep up with her mind.

When did the roles change?

Why do they make decisions for her? Why do they tell her what to do, when to do it, how to do it?

She always feels like she’s disappointing them. She can’t reach the goals they set. Her frailty frustrates her. She’s letting them down, they deserve better, she’s just in the way.

How can she stop feeling like a burden? How can she stop them from feeling like she’s their responsibility?

I’ll bet she can remember holding her chubby babies. Feeding, bathing, loving them. Nurturing them, raising them, watching them grow up as she grew old.

I see her. I SEE her. One day, I could be her.

My words don’t fix things, but she’s grateful for the time we spent. I can’t change how she feels, and I can’t make them feel like they don’t NEED to care for her. It’s out of love and the duty that comes with love.

But…it still sucks.




Out of the woodwork…

A patient was referred to hospice. He’s not in the process of dying right now, but end stage dementia……

Anyway, I’ve never seen visitors with him. This isn’t abnormal. There are very few residents who have frequent, regular visitors.

Suddenly, when the family decides to initiate hospice…. a FLURRY of visitors, over the past 2 days.

I happened across one such visitor today, standing in his room, watching him as he slept. She looked uncomfortable, lost, sad. He woke up, and she left soon after. Still quiet, looking ready to cry.

I wonder who she was? Family or friend, maybe his child or grand-child even.

I wonder if they will come back again, if he doesn’t pass away as soon as they seem to think he will?

I think it must be hard for people who don’t see dementia every day, to feel comfortable interacting with someone who is suffering from it. This may be why most residents have few visitors, people may think why bother coming, if they don’t know me anyway?

Most of these residents still have quality of life, even if they can’t remember where they are or what year it is. They participate in activities, get their hair done, sing songs, and even give advice. They make friends. They laugh, they cry, they still live. They enjoy human contact.  Few are so advanced in their dementia that they are no longer able to interact in a meaningful way….and even these residents deserve someone to hold their hand, or read to them.

There but for the grace of God…….

We don’t know what our future holds. Don’t be afraid of going to these places…..nursing homes, dementia units, whatever you call them. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. The greatest gift you can give is your time, isn’t it? Give a little now, you might need someone else’s later….