There are times when I just know that I will be called in to do the 11-7AM shift in the infirmary, where I work. It is usually on a weekend, Friday night to be exact, when I am most often called in. I don’t mind, of all the shifts it is the most quiet, though it does take a couple of days to get my self back on track. So it happened, and I went in to work.
People will sometimes ask me, who is my favorite patient, the one I like the most, or least mind taking care of. It is a hard question to answer. Sometimes it is the more colorful ones, the stubborn ones, that you can get most attached too. Nothing like butting heads to build up a relationship. Each is different, and I miss each one of them after they move on.
Philip has been here the longest, fifteen years to be exact. The first five years he was able to get around ok, he had angina, a pace maker was put in the late eighties; so he had some major health problems, and some slight dementia. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the mid-nineties, and by 1999 it had progressed to severe. He has been in a geriatric chair for a while, he can’t sit up straight for long periods of time, and we need a lift to get him out of bed….. he is too stiff, so to ‘dance’ him into his chair would be very dangerous for him, also for the one trying to do it. However he can be put into bed without the lift if the caregiver is strong enough, he is very light, perhaps 125 lbs or so and does not resist.
For the most part he is quite happy, smiles easily, and has a good appetite. He also has a sense of humor and can still laugh when something funny happens. He does not remember who I am, though he responds, it is often to someone else that he thinks I am. Sometimes he thinks I am his brother, or a friend from his army days in the Second World War, and once in awhile he will call me “Mary’, the name of one of his sisters. That always jolts me, boy if he had a sister that looked like me she would be in trouble. One night when he called me ‘Mary’, I ask him if Mary had a beard, and he looked at me and said, “Yeah Mary, when did you grow that beard”, it made me laugh.
He has been with us so long that I at times think that he is permanent, will be around forever. So when I went to check in on him, and to clean him, I was surprised to see a new development, not knowing if it was something serious, permanent, or if in fact his end was near. He was in bed, half asleep, and his arms where jerking, powerful movements that shook his body. I sat down by the bed and ask him if he was in pain, to which he answered in the negative. He did not seem to be having a seizure or a stroke, and since he was not in pain I cleaned him, covered him up, put on some music and left the room. I keep a close watch on him, but he did not get worse or better.
The next day the nursing assistant asked me if we should get him up. We try to get him up in the geriatric chair twice a day; total about 6 hours a day. When I checked in his arms were still twitching, so I said to not get him up, I was worried that he might bruise himself by hitting the sides of his chair. Later in the afternoon he was somewhat better so we got him up. He did not look well, so we only kept him in the chair for a coupe of hours. He is now back to ‘normal’ I guess, though I am sure he is weaker.
He is a very gentle soul, though he does have his days, which are his right, we all have bad days. Every once in awhile he will throw a tantrum and be difficult to deal with, but out of all the men there he is perhaps the happiest on a consistent basis. He will sometimes start crying, perhaps reliving a past experience, sometimes the tears are happy ones and at others he is very distressed. One night he was crying over what I perceived as a very traumatic event that happened with his brother. He kept looking at me and saying through his tears, “why did you not help me?” I did not know what to do, so I sit down by the bed and held him, that seems to always calm him down. After about half an hour he was ok and went to sleep. However, most nights he is happy, talking to a room full of people, like he is at a party. Sometimes when I am there he will introduce me to each one of them, though that has not happened in awhile. However the parties continue on some nights. I can almost hear the laughter when I pass his room. He just lays there looking from one person to another, laughing and talking, I like that.
I think I will miss his smile the most. He will often sit in his chair, looking very dignified and bestowing his very loving smile on everyone who is lucky enough to be in his presence. So some days he sleeps in his chair, others he smiles, and still on others he will have a bad day, throw his food on the floor, refuse to eat, argue, and I love all of it. We are a package deal, all or nothing. I know I have bad days, so why can’t he?