Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Stroke Victim Whisperer

I am gaining quite a reputation for myself at my volunteer job at Hospice. The last three times I've worked, I've been assigned to three different survivors of massive strokes. All three times I was told that they either weren't able to talk or wouldn't talk/interact. All three times, they've spoken coherently and mindfully to me in the presence of someone else at least once each evening. It's just a fluke, but it is very strange. I laughed when I heard a nurse remark last night that they should send The Stroke Victim Whisperer in to a certain patient's room and see what she could do! I'll allow a movie of my life, but only if Robert Redford is in it!LOL !

Last night I was assigned to a sweet lady that had had a stroke and suffered from dementia. She reminded me very much of my own Poppy and Mr. Bee's grandmother who we cared for though her last years battling Alzheimer's Disease. It was an honor and very poignant for me to spend the evening with her. She was in constant motion and she needed to keep her hands busy. In this case it was folding and refolding and then smoothing a magazine cover and shredding tissues. She only ever sleeps in 20 minute doses, then wakes up agitated and then calms down for an hour or two and then repeats the cycle so the staff has her on 1:1 care 24 hours a day. She spent a lot of the evening mumbling or speaking to people I couldn't see. Then at 9:15 she looks at her watch and then looks right at me and says 'Whew! It's 9:15! Honey I'm pooped!' It was too cute! Then a little later she noticed a man on a t.v., stopped what she was doing, sighed, and said, "Oh, he's good looking! I love a man in a suit". A lady after my own heart. Her brain may not be running smoothly but she can still recognize brawn when she sees it!

I was surprised at how many of the staff correct the patients that have dementia and Alzheimer's. I know it is exasperating when you need to get a lot of things done and the patient is difficult, but I've found that correcting them only confuses them more, agitates them and makes them argumentative. I find that it's much easier if you go along. Agree that it IS remarkable that the moon is lavender and that Herbert Hoover is doing an excellent job running our country. Nine time out of ten they will just nod and move on. It's not going to matter in another 30 seconds anyway. It's amazing the conversations you can have.

It's also amazing what 'sticks' in the mind after it has been injured. I found that during the times that Maude (not her real name) was agitated or combative, if I asked her politely to do something instead of telling her what to do or telling her what I was going to do to her, she was lovely. At one point, the nurse was trying to get her to move from her wheelchair into her recliner. The nurse was telling her to and she was having NONE of it. Finally I asked her "Maude , would you please sit in this chair over here and visit with me?" She mumbled 'Sure Honey' and sat right down. I'm guessing she was a very nice, polite, well-mannered lady before all of this woe befell her and her family.

Her daughter was just leaving when I got there. The poor woman looked exhausted. She had been caring for her mother at home and I can't imagine havoc Maude's damaged sleep cycle and antics must have wreaked on her life before she finally got her into the center. As far as I can tell she isn't in eminent danger of passing away. She seemed very healthy and strong. I don't know how long she will be able to stay at the center. They may have been able to get her in under 'Failure To Thrive'. I hope she can stay. I'm looking forward to spending more time with her!

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