In closing of this series of Being a Certified Nursing Assistant, I have to share one wonderful, beautiful story.
This is a story of Dot & Ralph and their romance in an Alzheimer's Unit.
Dot suffered from Alzheimer's. She was very religious. Her room had little Jesus statues on shelves, and crosses hung on her wall. She loved my Bible reading time each night. She would sit in her chair, and as I read the passage, she would say the words along with me. I really believe she had the whole book memorized.
Dot loved to wear nice dresses as if she was attending church on Sunday. She usually wore white support hosiery and black sneaker-type dress shoes. She visited the beauty parlor once a week to get her snow white hair and nails done. She loved to wear the giant floral earrings popular in the 50's, and a huge silver cross around her neck.
Dot struggled with her short term memory. Each night she would cry and say her daughters didn't care about her because they never came to see her. I would remind her that her daughters were just there visiting and she would ask "really? That was nice." Thirty seconds would go by, and she would be crying again, and the vicious cycle would repeat which is not uncommon with this disease.
She was one of the better ones. She could have a whole conversation before having to repeat everything.
Dot was one of the more agile residents who took part in activities. She loved to play bounce the ball or hit the balloon-- simple games for us, but not for them because their coordination would be off. Their arms would be stiff from arthritis. They also suffered from a loss of range of motion. But she tried and enjoyed playing.
Ralph was one of the guys that hung out in the group who did not have any dementia. He wasn't a long term resident. He had a stroke and was paralyzed on the left side.
Ralph was a retired heavy machinery operator. He loved to tell stories about the old days of excavating the earth for buildings. As with any parent who suffered he would say..."I used to dig out the bowels of the earth with nothing but a shovel."
His wife passed away years ago, and he never remarried. He came to the Sundowner's group activity each night to be with the ladies. He was a real gentleman. Even though he was wheelchair bound, he would help push the ladies wheelchairs to the dinner area.
Ralph was also like a helper to me. Each night about 8 p.m. the cleaning crew would come through just as we were having our discussion time. They would plug in their vacuums and zip around making a ruckus. Ralph saw the frustration in my face. He would sit by the outlet and yank the plug out of the wall. The cleaner would come back into the room and plug it back it. The cleaning would continue until Ralph would reach over and yank the plug out. He finally told them to be quiet because we were talking. Thank you, Ralph!
After a week or so, I noticed that Ralph would keep looking at Dot like a love sick puppy dog. I decided to put their chairs next to each other. I noticed they started chatting about their family, laughing at Fatty & Skinny (Laurel and Hardy) videos, and talking about the Bible. Dot stopped crying for her daughters. She was now being courted by Ralph. At dinner time, I made sure they sat alone at the same table. It was a pleasure to bring such happiness into their lives.
One night at discussion time, Ralph said he would like to read something to the group. I always encouraged people to speak about different things on their minds. Well....Ralph breaks out a poem and reads it directly to Dot. She looked at him intently, with her hands crossed on her lap, nodding, and smiling. It was a heartfelt moment that old romance movies are made of. To celebrate this beautiful moment, everyone got an extra cookie with their juice. (I was known at the softie that would give extra cookies at snack time) It was times like this that made my efforts so worthwhile.
I hope you enjoyed my series Being a Certified Nursing Assistant. There are many nursing facilities across the country, and you do not have to be a CNA or other medical type person to be involved. Volunteers are usually welcome. If you have a decent heart, you can be someone special in the lives of elders.
READ MORE FROM MY CRANIUM BY DAVID HERMAN