Today I’m going to talk about my weekly work in a nursing home near where I go to school. Every Tuesday for about 2 hours myself and a few other girls go straight from school to a nursing home for predominantly women with roughly 15 residents. I started visiting in early September and I have had the opportunity to experience a multitude of situations and has caused me to become very interested in this element of medicine.
One of the ladies who is particularly dear to my heart at the nursing home is a lady called Catherine*. We bonded over our mutual love of cats and she takes pride in looking after the residential cat, Daisy. Unfortunately Catherine has been suffering from a dislocated shoulder for over 5 years now in addition to a permanently broken wrist. Only recently she told me how she received these injuries, and she had fallen down the stairs. However since her husband had passed away several years earlier, no one was there to call the ambulance and she lay there for hours in pain. After inquiring with one of the nurses I found out that Catherine was in fact suffering from a separated shoulder and nothing could be done due to her poor bone strength and the risks that surgery could pose to her. She was on several painkillers and drugs to improve bone density, including Actonel with Calcium. After having to take this for several years however, Catherine has recently been told by the doctor she can come off her medication. Unfortunately however she can no longer lift her right arm above her head and a once fantastic artist can’t even grip a pencil properly.
I think I would be on the verge of psychopathic if I didn’t feel emotional witnessing someone like Catherine suffering through such great pain every day and no one being able to help her. I feel like these experiences not only fuel my determination to be in a position to help people but affirm my desire to work with people.
The nursing home can be a really sad place and I feel that the presence of young people really does make many of the residence’s week. Many of the ladies always give us a really warm welcome, even though many of them don’t remember our names or tell us the same childhood story. Their enthusiasm on good days is uncomparable, however there are some not very good days and it would be unrealistic to assume otherwise.
Several incidents stick out for me including when a fight ensued among two of the residents, both of which have cognitive impairment, possibly due to degenerative diseases. One of the ladies whose speech ability is almost non-existent grabbed another ladies zimmaframe whilst I was helping her into the next room. The lady I was assisting was obviously displeased and began to shout, causing the other lady to join her. A nurse came to help diffuse the situation but in those moments I felt almost helpless and had a moment of panic. What could I do?
Another incident occurred today actually. A resident called Dolly* who is usually a very coherent lovely lady had a bad day. I knew from speaking with the nurses (who are real life superheroes lest I forget) that she was severely diabetic and saw the doctor every day for checkups. Today she must have been frustrated and angry and whatever set her off she was adamant that she wanted to leave the home. She stood at the door barring our exit and quarrelled profusely with one of the nurses. Soon there were threatening language towards the nurse and even with the nurse coercing her, Dolly would not be moved. From the nurses point of view it was a frustrating situation but Dolly was probably homesick and angry. It really highlighted for me that medicine will be full of frustration and true patience is required when entering into this field.
While I will continue to work at this particular nursing home up until my summer holidays in July, I thought I would write about just a few of my experiences so far and maybe in the future I can look back and see how far I have come in terms of my own self growth on my journey towards medical school. The sad truth about these nursing homes is that death is a reality and many of these people arrive here feeling that their fate is sealed. I hope that by helping out and having a conversation with some of these ladies that I, and the girls I visit with, can take their mind off this daunting reality, even if it is for a few hours in a day.
Thank you for reading and come back soon!
*names were changed