As a Certified Nursing Assistant, you meet many types of people. You experience a melting pot of ethnicities, religions, genders, attitudes, and beliefs. You are essentially a chameleon who has to adapt to each person to meet their needs. You definitely must have people skills and extreme patience. You must also be able to show respect at all times. Having the ability to love is a gift to share.
This is a story about the Quiet Lady. She was a 90-year-old German lady named Gertrude. She was also a victim of Alzheimer's. Gertrude always wore a grayish granny type sweater to dinner each night. She had coke bottle bottom glasses that were too big for her face that kept sliding down her nose. She had a blank stare on her glassy, glossed over eyes. She made no movement of her face other than to open her mouth to accept the spoon of food she was given.
Gertrude would be wheeled to the same table each night by her CNA. Susan, a blind woman whose daughter came every night to feed her, sat across from her. Each night I would get Gertrude ready for dinner. I would put a napkin around her neck and made sure she was up against the table with the locks on her wheelchair wheels. I would then go prepare her food. She was on a Puree Diet. All her food....whether it was steak, potatoes, beans had to be blended to a consistency of mush.
I would always talk to Gertrude while getting her dinner ready. I would ask her all kinds of questions, but she never answered. For weeks, I talked to her about the daily events in detail. I would tell her about my children and what devilish things they were up to. I would compliment her on her looks telling her how nice her hair looked. Besides feeding her, I would constantly push her glasses back up her nose every few minutes.
Every night, it was the same process-- get her ready, make her dinner, feed her, clean her up, then take her to the activity room. Gertrude was known as the Quiet Lady for a reason.
One night, I was going about the regular activity of getting Gertrude ready. It was an uneventful, quiet time, as usual. I pushed her glasses up her face and began to talk about the news. For some reason, I decided to talk about the Cubs. I shared with her a time when I was a kid that I used to run home after school and jump over neighbors' fences to arrive for the last 1 1/2 innings, during which they usually lost. I then asked if she was a Cubs' fan.
What happened next was something that resounded through the building like the shot heard around the world.
She answered "YES!" I was stunned. Everyone around was stunned. For months, since the moment she came to the home, Gertrude never said a word. Her family said she spoke English and could hear. But for months, she never uttered a sound. She was the Quiet Lady no more.
After that, I became known as the "Magic Man." "The Elder Whisperer." I accomplished what no other CNA, nurse, doctor, or even family member was able to do.
I got the Quiet Lady to speak!
She still wasn't a conversationalist after that, but she did answer my questions with yes and no answers. I created a bond with a woman that I treated with love every night I was with her. I treated her with respect. I pushed her glasses up when no one else would. Hey..it bugs the beans out of me when my glasses slide down my nose, but I can push them back up. I talked to her like she was a person with all her abilities to communicate. Most important of all...I asked her the right question.
I hope you enjoyed my story about The Quiet Lady Speaks. It is yet another wonderful memory of being a CNA. As usual, I encourage everyone that was moved by this story to get involved. You do not have to be a CNA to volunteer at a local nursing home.
Next: Being a Certified Nursing Assistant Part 6: The Deterioration of Robert.