By Linda Gilman MS, LPC, Gerontology Specialist
Miss Lily’s good friend Sophie had a bad fall and is now recuperating at the local Skilled Care Facility (SCF). Miss Lily had Marilyn take her to pay a visit; it was important to Miss Lily that Sophie had visitors. While in the common area where residents and their visitors often sit, Marilyn was aware of some of the visitors who seemed to be upset and rather loud. Read on….
This month’s article is an important one and hopefully will help those of you who have loved ones in a SCF…either short-term (rehab) or long-term. We are hoping to help people understand the dynamics of a visit. Sounds serious, right? Read on, and you’ll see what we mean.
Sophie had surgery for a broken hip and consequently has some confusion (hopefully temporary) from the anesthesia. Miss Lily: Sophie, how are you feeling? You don’t look so good? Are you eating? What do you do here all day? Sophie stares at Miss Lily and mumbles something as Miss Lily moves her head closer TO HEAR BETTER. Marilyn turns to Miss Lily and says, quietly..Miss Lily, do you remember when I told you that sometimes when older people have surgery their memory isn’t quite as sharp as it was before? And, not to ask questions as it might be upsetting to that person… By looking at Sophie, I think she’s confused and asking her all these questions is just upsetting her more… she’s unable to make sense of what you are saying. Miss Lily: Oh my, I forgot what you told me… I just want Sophie to know I care and, I want to know she’s okay.
As Marilyn looked around the room she observed some of the other visitors doing the same thing. These visitors were clearly uncomfortable. She could tell because their voices kept getting louder when the resident wasn’t able to answer their questions. They fidgeted in their seats because the silence was awkward. Marilyn felt badly for these people because they probably just wanted to have a nice visit and leave feeling 1. they did a good deed by visiting and 2. the resident was doing well.
So, this is reality. This is what I’m seeing right now in nursing Homes. Just as Miss Lily kept asking Sophie questions about her well-being, Sophie becoming agitated, more confused and TIRED but, Miss Lily was becoming anxious and scared. Why? Because Miss Lily had expectations and wanted to think that Sophie was going to continue being her best friend and go back to being herself. What really happened was, Miss Lily left more upset and very sad. It took Marilyn a while to help Miss Lily understand that rehabilitation takes time and, the person may never be the same. But Sophie is still Miss Lily’s best friend and that’s what Miss Lily needs to know.
The next visit a week later, was better. Miss Lily: Sophie, I’m glad to see you. You’re looking pretty good today, sweetheart… actually, better than me (laugh)…, which brought a little smile to Sophie’s face. Miss Lily was holding Sophie’s hand and they just sat for a while. Sophie squeezed Miss Lily’s hand and said some things that didn’t make much sense to Miss Lily but remembering what Marilyn told her Miss Lily just smiled at Sophie and agreed. Yes, it was still sad but Miss Lily wasn’t as upset when she left. Sophie squeezed her hand, smiled at her and even spoke.
More reality: It is better to visit at times when you know the resident will be more available to you, especially if the resident has some confusion and agitation. Don’t ask questions if the person isn’t really able to respond. Don’t ask if they remember you or anyone else or, don’t say..remember when? Talk about good things, funny things. If you feel that something is not right, quietly mention it to the staff. And, don’t over stay your visit.
Love, Miss Lily
Readers, feel free to contact Linda Gilman or Marilyn Woelke at Geri-Ed Services, 309-373-2400 or 309-781-6462, if you are concerned about a loved one who drinks too much or who has behavioral problems due to drinking. Alcohol is becoming high on the list of the dementia related problems. But it is one of the dementias that may be reversed if caught early.
Photo credit: AlexRaths/iStock