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Friday, November 18, 2011

Cast of Characters at the Nursing Home

When you have a relative in a nursing home, and visit fairly often, you can't help but notice the other residents. The nursing home where Pawpaw is makes an effort to keep their residents up so they can be more active. So there are always a lot of people in the lobby and in the halls when we visit.

Some people greet us at the door, hoping to see a familiar face, but ready to talk to anyone. There is one lady who parks her wheelchair near the front door and always asks me if I am there to take her home. I hate to disappoint her but I tell her I am there to visit my father-in-law, and she nods and turns her attention to the next person coming in the door.

Pawpaw is usually in his room, dozing in bed. Fatigue and a groggy, dizzy, sleepiness are the worst part of Parkinson's Disease for Pawpaw. He has good days where he can stay awake for an hour and there are days where he wakes only to doze off again. And on those days, he is never sure whether the stuff he had been dreaming about really happened or not. He is usually sure he has been out building a house or even putting on an addition to the nursing home. But then he will admit that it could have been a dream. I asked him how old he is in his dreams and he said he is about twenty or so. Back when he could do anything, and that feeling is still with him even when he also knows he needs help putting his shoes on.

The last time I visited Pawpaw, it was just before lunch. Normally, the aids begin taking the residents to the dining hall about an hour before the meal is served, so they can get everyone in by noon. But since I was there, I took him in just before it was time to eat.

Like most nursing homes, the residents who are in wheelchairs are encouraged to use their feet to pull their chairs forward, and not push the wheels with their hands. It's to keep them more active, and the foot rests are removed from the chairs. But Pawpaw had on his slippers and couldn't get any traction on the slick floor, so as much as he tried, he was basically walking in place. His feet were so swollen that I couldn't get his shoes on his feet, so he held his feet up and I pushed him to the dining hall. Hubby went out later and bought him some tennis shoes with velcro straps so he can get them on when his feet are swollen and when they aren't.

Once in the dining hall, Pawpaw insisted he sat at a table where no one was sitting. There aren't any place markers, so I thought maybe they did move him to another table. The time before, he had been at the next table, and the place where he sat was empty. But he didn't want to sit at that table so we sat at the other table. Pawpaw leaned over and confided to me that he couldn't carry on a conversation with any of those people in the dining hall because they just weren't with it. I got a chuckle out of that because it's hard to have a conversation with Pawpaw most of the time.

At his regular table, there are two other people, June and PeeWee (not his real name, but that's what everyone calls him). June has a motorized scooter and she is sharp as a tack. She is the one who knows where everyone is supposed to sit in the dining hall and keeps track of all the happenings in the halls. During the last meal, an aid rushed into the dining hall and said they needed the RN in her hall. June's head came up and she watched the nurse and all the aids rush out. She backed away from the table and said that was her hall and she had to go find out what was happening, and away she went as fast as her scooter would go.

PeeWee is a younger man, and as he proudly announces, the only man at the home to walk unassisted. All the other men are either in wheelchairs or walkers. PeeWee is friendly, talks to everyone, and everyone knows him. Even Pawpaw can remember his name.

There is another lady who likes to park her wheelchair in the doorway of the media and game room, and rocks her chair back and forth so no one can get around her without talking to her.

Another woman cries all the time. She sounds just like a toddler and cries while she is eating, while she is watching tv, and while she is out in the lobby. She drives my mother-in-law up the wall. I had heard her for awhile before I realized it was a resident and not a visiting child.

There's another lady who carries a doll around with her. At first I thought she was the lady who cried like a baby, but she just quietly wheels around with the doll. She looks really familiar to me, and I can't figure out why.

Then there's Mr. Nash. He is ninety-five and also pretty sharp. He likes to walk his wheelchair outside and is curious about what is going on outside the nursing home. His goal is to live to be one hundred, and I do believe he'll make it.

There's another woman who Pawpaw thinks is his cousin Imogene, but she isn't. Pawpaw doesn't understand why she hasn't come over and talked to him though. But he also doesn't make any effort to go talk to her either.

Brownie and I made a bird feeder to put outside Pawpaw's window. He wasn't sure Brownie was his granddaughter one day. I think it confuses him that she looks so much like me (or what I used to look like) and that I look so much like my mother. Hopefully he will recognize you when you come visit, Lil. The plan is to bring him to our house for Thanksgiving Day, and being in a familiar place should be good for his memory, but it will also make it harder for him to go back to the home.

See you soon,



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. My mother was at a nursing home for about a month. I was there when she first went in, but since I live on the other side of the country I didn't have the opportunity to visit after that. I found it very very depressing.

  3. My boss just put his MIL in a nursing home. He wasn't happy about it.

    You definitely have your hands full. Hope your Thanksgiving is a good one and one that your PawPaw can remember.


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