(Featured image credit: Randy Souders)
Everyone should work or volunteer in a nursing home at least for two days to one week in their life or at least until they learn the fundamentals of working with the elderly. As an aspiring doctor, I want to be able to have that ability to connect with the elderly (70-100+ years of age). I think these people have seen the most out of the world (at least more than my years of living). But there’s a difference between their frail age and the age where and older person tend to look down on you and use their age to make them the “wiser” one. Have you met someone like that? Because I feel a big difference in the way they act and talk. The difference? Humility and humbleness (is that a word? I forget. Haha). These elders are wise, adorable, and funny (whether or not they know what they’re talking about, haha). Let me tell you about a few of the elderly men and women whom I had the pleasure to meet this past Sunday.
Mr. Miyahara (last name): He was my first resident I worked one-on-one with Sunday. I assisted him with eating his breakfast. Now, here was a funny guy who was sleeping in bed and didn’t want to eat. I gave him maybe 4 teaspoons full of his scrambled eggs with mashed potatos. You may have thought that’s too little, but to someone like Mr. M, it was too much. My instructor even helped me with repositioning him on the bed so he could eat better. But all Mr. M wanted to do was go back to sleep. He even asked me to scratch his back because it was itchy, haha. Trust me, he was a funny guy. During repositioning, my instructor and a certified nurse aide assisted me with giving Mr. M perineal care. Now, Mr. M was just SO ITCHY he was saying, “scratch my balls, scratch my balls.” It’s not my first seeing a penis since my mom owns a carehome and she gives her male and female residents a bathe every morning, but OMG, my instructor finished it for me because my hand pressure was too light (how embarrasing). With my late ALS boss, I just used his graduated cylinder and looked away, but never could be use to an old man. I’m only used to changing my baby nephews’ diapers… 😂 After a diaper change, Mr. M ate a few more bites and slept… while I still held his spoon near his mouth. Another memorable resident was Ms. Helen.
Ms. Helen (first name): I think Ms. Helen reminded me the most of my Aunty Concing who has dementia. They have the same silky, white hair color and length (pixie cut). They were probably the same height, but since Ms. Helen was in a wheelchair, I could only base her height on her height when she’s sitting: definitely tiny and fragile like my aunty with similar facial structure. Ms. Helen was such a quiet one, but I don’t know what it was that made her smile at me and giggled. All I did was smile at everyone while passing their breakfast trays, doing what I came to do in the nursing home: to learn and work. I was the one to assist her with breakfast after Mr. M and she ate while we chatted about her beautiful red nails and how she doesn’t remember who did them. I told her that maybe the nail fairy came to make her nails nice a week ago. 😅 You kinda have to be weird and funny to make these old ones laugh, so I changed into my silly, goofy, and chatty personality (which seems to come out majority of the time with these old folks–even those not in the nursing home). After breakfast I assisted Ms. H with her group exercises (her range of motions) but then had to leave to assist with bathing someone else.
Ms. Sumako: Here was a lady who was sweet yet had an edge to her. Ms. Sumako was the first we bathed and my classmate, Janine, were doing well until we didn’t place the used towels on the floor. Aiyaaa (my instructor was watching us when she returned from assisting another group). But all mistakes were corrected when Janine and I bathed the last resident (only bathed two residents today since there were like eight of us total on our side of the nursing home. Plus, the CNAs who were initially working there also bathed a few residents themselves.
Ms. Gladys (first name): If you just saw her the entire time during stretches and BINGO, you wouldn’t have stopped smiling. Her smile was even more contagious than my own! Like even the nurses, CNAs and my classmates and instructor thought so, too! Her smile was just FRICKEN adorable and CUTE!! If I ever find a picture of whom or what cartoon she reminded me of, then I’ll post it in the comments section or in my gallery.
Ms. Harriet (first name): During breakfast and BINGO, she was the loudest one. She would yell, “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” or “SAY THAT AGAIN!” or “I NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM!” 😅
Now during BINGO, I had my available classmates sit between two residents, so they could assist with each resident with their card. Then I was left with Ms. Harriet, Ms. Gladys, Mr. Chung (last name) and Ms. Shimubokuro. The rest could do it themselves without assistant.
Whenever I told Ms. Harriet she missed a few numbers on her bingo card, she’d be so happy like a child on Christmas! I liked her spunky attitude, haha. I’d also lightly joke with her and the others I assisted how they shouldn’t reveal the numbers already called behind my back or else we won’t win, because what they tend to do is reveal the numbers but forget to cover them again. 😂😂
I was on my feet pretty much the whole day Sunday except for our two break times for snake and then lunch when we practiced taking each others’ blood pressures).
I was a bit disappointed that Sunday was our last clinicals together as a class, but I’m sure my classmates and I will see each other again. I mean, it IS a small island after all.
And I started this blog on my phone after coming home and freshening up before I went to sleep because I was just THAT dead on my feet. Especially since I came home late from work Saturday night without dinner only to wake up early again Sunday morning, I was exhausted.
I’d say that this experience was definitely one for the memory book though, because although I volunteered at nursing homes before, I’ve spent two WHOLE days WORKING with these residents from waking up to near dinner. I remember standing during BINGO — observing all the sleepy, tired and cranky senior residents and realized that one day, I will be where they are sitting. Maybe not in the same seats, but in the same predicament: wheelchair-bound/walker-bound, unable to eat on my own, waiting for Death to come knocking at my door. How sad is that? I mean, I met teachers and doctors alike in the nursing home from widowers to couples still going strong. Some of them don’t even have children nor grandchildren to visit them! 🙁 My heart just felt weighted by this realization. Not that I haven’t thought about this before, because I did. It’s just that with every experience placed in front of me, I always have this urge to “empathize” and “sympathize”. My previous psychiatrist roommate told me that my greatest strength is compassion, but yea, I’ve always wanted to care for everyone weak and needing love, even though self-love was the hardest for me to do.
These elderlies were in our shoes. Even Ms. Helen told me how she was so selfish when she was younger. And she had guy issues, too, haha. I have MAD respect for this age group guys, because even though they get cranky or angry, they truly can’t help it because I know the brain chemicals and body is constantly changing even more so during these last years of life.
I also never remembered my grandparents from my mom’s and dad’s side since I was the “miracle” child born when my mom was 43-years-old. So maybe that’s why I could feel like the child I never could be in front of these grandmas and grandpas because I could be goofy in front of them without my parents shackling me to be “lady-like”.
I love being with the elderlies and I’m thankful Ms. Helen said that I make her happy because once again she brought meaning to my life. And like how I, too, told Ms. Helen how she made me happy that Sunday, my AMAZING FOLLOWERS make me happy as well!