The past month I have started doing some companion care for two senior women. At first it just started out as a favor for a friend who needed someone to sit with her 90 year old grandmother with Alzheimer's Disease and a broken hip who resides in a nursing home. I have let my nursing license expire so I couldn't provide any nursing care, but I certainly could provide compionship and make sure she was well cared for. Laura (not her real name) was delightful, appreciative and very forgetful. She never remembered who I was, but liked to talk and was pleasant with the other residents; she occassionally made very funny comments. The nursing aides that I observed caring for Laura were efficient and treated her with respect, I have to say I was impressed overall.
Just walking into a nursing home can be depressing, but this one had quilts hanging on the walls of each corridor, so I knew there was hope. It was clean and bright and didn't have that particular smell associated with many nursing homes. Yes, there where residents stooped over in their wheelchairs in the hallway who looked totally confused, but by just saying "Hello" to them you could see a brightness return to their eyes as they said "Hello" back.
After sitting with Laura I moved on to working with another lovely lady in a retirement center, who commented after my first day with her that she liked how I looked her in the eyes when I spoke to her.This was something I have never thought about before, but it all comes down to respect (to quote Aretha Franklin).
I think we need to wake up to how we treat our seniors. We tend to forget that there is someone in there who is intellegent, wise and still has so much to offer, even though they may be forgetful, sometimes confused or physically challenged.
The words to an old John Prine song "Hello in There", keep coming back to me. Here is a sample of the lyrics:
"Ya` know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rives grow wider every day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say "Hello in there, hello"
So if your walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don't just pass `em by and stare as if you didn't care
Say "Hello in there, Hello"