As a teenager, I spent two years working in a nursing home. I wore street clothes, unlike the adult staff members. There were often times when I would be instructed to do something and I wouldn’t understand why I was chosen. Now I do.
Why? I wasn’t wearing the clothing of authority. There wasn’t anything to rebel against. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get my share of rebellious behavior, but I had a weapon I didn’t even know about; my youth and inexperience.
There are two stories that illustrate this point. The first happened then. I was instructed to feed a man who had just been admitted after having a stroke. He couldn’t speak and he couldn’t feel himself. He was diabetic and he didn’t want to live.
*No one* could feed him. He spat the food back at everyone…so, they gave the spoon and sherbet cup to me. After he spat at me two or three times I stopped and looked him in the eye. “I am too young to have your death on my conscious,” I told him. He ate the sherbet. I guess he agreed that a sixteen year old didn’t need that particular problem. I was a different “voice.”
The second happened yesterday. At 51, I’ve learned a few things, and that early lesson has stuck with me. A particular patient had a habit of trying to get into the med cart when no one was looking. I had been talking with one of the caregivers. The woman sighed and mentioned that habit.
As I happened to remember the woman’s name, I said cheerfully, “Hey, (name omitted)! How are you doing?” She smiled at me and said she was hungry. I called her over, she got lunch, problem solved.
Who can do this? Don’t think that I’m writing this because I have special powers with the elderly. The only way I could do it is because I’m not in charge. I’m “one of them.” That means that anyone can do it under the right circumstances.
The staff at our elder’s care facility do a wonderful job working with the patients. That doesn’t mean they can’t use a helping hand. If you visit regularly enough, get to know some of the other patients. You may be able to help in some situations. Is one of them lonely? Sit with them a little while. Does one need someone to talk to? Listen. It doesn’t take long, but being a different “voice” can help everyone.