A petite women came into our lives around six months ago. Her daughters came with, and they brought an air of hope along. Hope, that we at Jura Care could be there for their mother, love her, and care for her….and hope that we could give her quality of life again.
We tried. But we failed…She exploded the first day we tried to put her pajamas on. She screamed and slapped and scratched anyone who come close to her. We were her enemy, every time we tried to comb her hair, brush her teeth.
Her new false teeth never came close to her mouth. I dipped them in honey, smeared them with melted chocolate, but as soon as I tried to put them in her mouth, she grabbed them and threw them against something! This tiny women was physically so strong, it took two to three of us, just to bathe her, dress and undress her, and sometimes we just gave up, and she slept in a bundle in her day clothes.
She paced the passages up and down in the house at an incredible speed. She didn’t give way to anyone, shoved them out of her way, leaving fragile women stumbling and nearly loosing their balances. All residents in the home, tried to avoid her, she was eating out of their plates, grabbing their food, pulling blankets off them while they were sleeping. While she was awake, a carer had to follow her, trying to avoid her from harming someone or harming herself.
She only stuttered….making repetitive noises non stop. She was only quiet when she was asleep. What she tried to say hardly made any sense, and it was difficult to try and understand her.
She was like a very frightened little animal in our Home.
But she taught us so much!
She taught us, how to handle her without bruising her. She did not have a single bruise on her body, although we had to hold her hands and arms to try to clothe her. We had to stay away from her hands, flying at us, trying to slap, or pinch us. No bruises on her legs, although we had to pin her body down. To put her pants on we had to hold on to one leg, and we had to make sure to be out of the kicking range of her feet! She left two or three of us sweating and out of breath every time, and we walked out bruised or bitten…..until tomorrow.
She taught us to make plans to keep her nappy on. She couldn’t understand how to use the nappy, and she forgot to use a toilet. She used chairs, laundry baskets, cushions, anything in anyone’s room…..
She taught us, how to feed her while walking next to her, because sitting down was not something she did. She never sat down for even one minute a day, she stumbled forward.
She taught us to get excited when there was one understandable word coming out of her mouth, she taught us to be thankful if there was a hint of a smile in her eyes. She taught us to be grateful when it seemed like she recognized a song, and tried to sing along.
And most of all, she taught us…how to love her…no matter what!
But we failed her!
She fell! She hit her head so hard and had to get stitches!
She grabbed a resident by her hair, and threw her to the ground!
We needed help!
A psychiatrist sat with me, and her daughter, stunned by this poor petite women, once her mother.
She send us home with medicine! An anti-psychotic drug! Drugs I rather take away than giving them to our residents. But this time I was at a loss…..a loss of hope.
We ‘ve tried everything to help her, to understand her, to make her comfortable without taking the last step to medication, but it was time to seek help. We got her daughter involved to understand the sickness, the severity of her mother’s disruptive behavior, and it was decided.
At our Home, this is our last option.
I started the drug with not much hope…but within a day, something changed in this tiny women!
She sits down at the table for breakfast. Not every day, but most of the days.
She still walks up and down the passages, but not without purpose anymore, not shoving anyone who comes close to her, and when you pass her in the passage, you will get a little smile, or even a kiss!
We still need to improvise to get her dressed and bathed, but it is not a battle anymore.
But most of all, she laughs again, sings again and there is a smile on her wrinkly face.
And when her daughter comes to visit, she smiles softly with a hint of recognition in her eyes…
…..and we can make her feel like the pretty women she still is, putting curlers in her hair!
Thank you, Tina for giving your life to this terrible disease to teach us so many lessons of love in our Home!
PS. One of my first blogs was about medication!
And today I am still so thankful for that lesson I learnt. And even now, all I know about this pill I am giving to Tina now, is….it is working for her, it is helping her now, I don’t even know if it is going to help her tomorrow, or for how long….. I do not know if it is going to help the next person with Dementia. This disease is too diverse, too individualized, different in every human being, to think that we can handle them the same or medicate them the same!