Sometime last week, I made my patient cry. I was shocked, flabbergasted. This man is possibly one of my patients I would have least expect him to cry. Yet he did. It’s really not because I have done something extraordinary for him – I mean, I’ve only just brought him to the bathroom and back.
I had just about started my usual evening medication rounds when I realised Mr. Alfonso (this is the first name that popped into my head lol) had apparently gotten up by himself and was walking (pretty stably, I must say) with the aid of his walking frame. Obviously I left what I was doing to just watch him, in case he needs any help etc. So I started a conversation with him. He takes a tad bit longer to reply, you see. You can see the bubble thought in his head, trying to process what I’ve just asked him. He turned to me and said his legs are weak, he needs to walk real slow (completely irrelevant to what I’ve just asked him lol). And of course, I agreed, told him to take his time, I’ll be here if he needs me.
This is the thing with Mr. Alfonso. He’s pretty loud. He doesn’t have the most appropriate expressions most of the time. When he says things, his tone doesn’t match the intentions of his words, if you know what I mean. So he could be saying something really nice, but because he says it so loudly, and with this blank almost unreadable expression on his face, you’re not really sure if he’s actually angry or otherwise. Also, he is known for his hot-temperedness, so we usually take great care not to piss him off. Elderly can be pretty intimidating when they get angry, mind you.
So when he got back to bed, he sat on the edge of the bed, looked at me long and hard and decided to give me a pat on my arm. He then proceeded to say (slowly but really loudly, too) that I am a good person. And that was when he suddenly burst into tears and asked in between sobs, why am I so nice to him? At that point, I was thinking, ‘Oh God this is embarrassing, people must be thinking I’m abusing him or something.’ Had to give him some tender loving care and comfort him (just in case he was secretly depressed or something). He then abruptly decided that I am fit to be his granddaughter, after asking for my age. Which was nice, really really nice.
After I laid him down and reassured him to go to sleep while he pushed me back to work, I walked away amused, but slightly bemused.
When I first started nursing dementia patients, when I first committed myself to see the PERSON and not the disease, there was this quote that stuck with me throughout all these years that reminds me why I do what I do on a daily basis. Famous is this quote, you will know it I am sure.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou
And in that very moment, it really hits home once again why I have always refused to allow myself to be burnt out by people with dementia.
Mr. Alfonso would have forgotten in the next half hour that he cried in front of this nurse who brought him to the toilet. He would also, in the next 5 minutes, request for his evening medications again even though I have JUST given them to him and he swallowed them all in front of me. He would too, forgotten that he had just peed and would want to get up to go to the bathroom soon again.
But the expression he gives me whenever he looks at me now – though it may be like he is trying to remember something he has clearly forgotten – stays with me. That slight smile of recognition that tells me that he will always remember, somehow. After that episode, for the next few days that I nursed & engaged with him, he had been most grandfatherly in every way possible – joking around, and definitely a hell lot more cheerful and pleasant than when he first came in.
And this is the amazing bit: even though he was the one who cried that one evening, but it was MY heart that he touched. :’)
People will NEVER forget how you made them feel.
Indeed, I will never forget how YOU made ME feel, Mr Alfonso. Thank you for reminding me why I am proud to be a dementia nurse. :’)
Mr. Alfonso went home yesterday. I didn’t get to say goodbye; but I sure hope he lives well, and that I will never see him in the hospital again.
I hope you enjoy the story I just unfolded before you.
Maya Angelou said, ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’.
(I’m starting to think Maya Angelou contributed a lot to the making of this post)
The story is real, by the way. I didn’t make any of it up. I don’t have to, honestly. My job gives me plenty of stories to tell, not forgetting the abundance of lessons one can pick up in each story. I have always wanted to share my day-to-day happenings because they can be really interesting, especially once I piece all the quirky bits together. Unfortunately, life always seem to get in the way. I get too tired and penning them stories down suddenly seem like a chore. I suppose in a way, I wasn’t ready to start writing just yet.
So why now? Coincidentally it is Dementia Awareness Week (17-23 May) and this year, it is all about having new experiences, hence #DoSomethingNew this week. To support this campaign, I am going to try starting something new – writing my stories, sharing my experiences nursing people with dementia, how they affect/change me, lessons learnt in the process etc. AND ACTUALLY BE CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO SHARE MY POEMS. I know I may have tried once, a long time ago, and failed because it became too much. But this time, let’s give it another shot. 🙂
Also because it is my birthday weekend, I think this blog deserves a new makeover, and a new post. This year I shall dedicate my birthday to Dementia Awareness Week. New direction, new dreams, new lip colour LOL.
Happy birthday, me. A year older, hopefully another year wiser.
I am even more convinced that my very existence is so I can “try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” (Maya Angelou, again!!!).
Here’s to more adventures & stories!