Tuesdays at the Nursing Home

I'm on the locked Alzheimer's Unit this afternoon when an attractive, petite woman walks up to me. "Tell me," she says, "what's missing on me?"

I look at her carefully. I'm weighing this question, giving it serious consideration even though I know she's got dementia. I study her, take in the bright green peasant top and jeans, the chic haircut.

"I don't know," I say finally, "but I love your hair."

She screws up her face and I realize she has no teeth.

"No, what?" she says. "What did you say? I can't hear you. Look at me. What am I missing?"

"Your teeth?" I ask, completely forgetting for the moment that she has dementia. "Did you forget to put in your teeth?"

She shakes her head.  "No, I don't think so.  Something's missing on me. What is it?"

The symbolism of the moment is completely lost on me as I struggle to answer.

"I don't think you're missing a thing," I tell her.

She shakes her head and leaves me to wander up to the next person.  "Come on," I hear her say, "what's missing on me?"

I spend the next hour sitting with a woman who's new to the unit.  She's driving the staff nuts because she keeps asking for her daughter, sure her girl's disappeared and needs her.

"Please, please stick with me," she begs.  "Please help me find my daughter. She wouldn't just go off and leave like this."

I soothe.  I lie. I tell the truth. And nothing helps. Nothing matters. Thirty seconds later she clutches my hand, her eyes filling with tears. "Please help me find her," she pleads. "I'm so lonely here."

I hate broken heart Tuesdays.


Hugh said...

God bless you for being compassionate.

Nancy said...

Thanks, Hugh. When I get enough space from the day I always wind up realizing I received far more than I could ever give.

LBDDiaries said...

It just jerks your heart right out of your chest. You are so much more brave than I could ever be because I just could not do it. I had enough trouble when Alpha Hubby was pastor at a nursing home for 8 years. They break your heart... and yet they give back so much more. So much. I still remember every single one.