Okay. Are you ready?
I work in a nursing home. As a social worker. And in the activities department, on occasion.
I love it, okay? I love old people. I love the smell of “I wear way too strong perfume because my ‘ole smeller don’t work no mo'” and an ungodly amount of hairspray. I like being considered funny, young, beautiful, and intelligent. What they don’t know is that I am none of the above, since all of their senses are fading. I also like introducing myself ten times a day to the same demented woman and having to show her to her room every time she forgets where she is.
Really, I do enjoy all of these things.
Now, what do I not enjoy? Death. Attachment. Death.
You can’t have this population without the inevitable death. You also cannot be good at your job without the connection between you and the residents in the nursing home. Becoming attached is basically in the job description, despite the warning that everybody gives you about “not becoming attached! Don’t bring your work home with you!” Really, people? Work with the same people for forty hours a week and not become attached?! They see me more than they see their families, and you expect me not to become attached?!?!
Sorry; you lose.
Anyway, I went to work last Thursday to find that one of my favorite residents had passed away the night before. I gave him chocolate after playing a dice game with him. GONE.
So, I “buck up” and get along in my day.
By about mid-morning, I stood next to the bed of yet another resident who was declared dead right in front of me. I stayed in the room while they undressed her, cleaned her, rubbed lotion on her, dressed her, brushed her hair, and got her ready to be seen by her family.
Now, my boyfriend told me after the fact that I should not have watched that happen, as I am not paid for such things. Someone paid minimum wage is not to engage in such activities.
Maybe that’s true. But I choose to believe otherwise. I am better at my job because of these things. Watching people prepare the dead for family is the last respect that they can give that woman. Witnessing such events makes the seemingly pointless things that I do every day so much more important.
Sure, waving at the lady watching tv may not be life-changing, but in a way, it does make the end of their life a tiny bit more bearable. Because let’s be honest here, a nursing home life is not glamorous. You lose much of your dignity, if not all of it, and on top of all of that, you are usually alone to deal with any and everything headed your way.
Anyway, by lunchtime I was asked to play my violin for someone’s grandmother that was currently passing.
How do you say no to that? You don’t. I haven’t picked my violin up in a year and a half, and I just happened to bring it to the nursing home to practice some hymns?! Not a coincidence. So, I played for about thirty minutes in this lady’s room with her family crying all around me. Hymn, after hymn, after hymn, with an occasional “You Are My Sunshine,” since it was her favorite song. Thank the Lord that I was blessed with the gift of playing by ear. The woman was unresponsive except when I played my violin, in which she moved her leg ever so slightly.
Powerful stuff right there.
Two more people passed away over the weekend, and three are in the hospital.
Our count is at 13 lost right now, and I can honestly say that I am emotionally drained. I know why people don’t last in this “business,” but I hope that I will leave my mark.
For those of you who think that what you do doesn’t matter, think again.