One of the reasons she bothered me so much was because, after being a mom of 4 kids and much more children experience than senior citizen experience, I tried to "retrain" her. I tried to "teach" her how to treat people. You know when they tell you to never lose a battle of wills with a child? I tried to place that same logic with this woman.
Needless to say, it didn't work. I finally came up with a coping mechanism the enabled me to give her good quality care and in the end, I became one of her favorite aides. I will not go as far as to say she became one of my favorite residents because this isn't a Disney film. But, life became MUCH easier (Not kidding. My sleepless nights and upset tummy disappeared.) once I started doing this simple thing.
At first, I just hummed. I would think of a favorite hymn and hum it. It calmed my spirit and soothed my soul. She never noticed. But, things got much more tolerable once I started doing that, even before I stepped into her room.
I noticed I started doing it in other residents rooms. Not because they stressed me out but just because it was already in my head and I enjoyed the peace it gave me.
One day, my absolute favorite resident of all time, Dwight, noticed I was humming. Now, Dwight was a stroke victim and while he could talk, sometimes his words didn't match what he was thinking.
"I need help with my shoes" would come out "I want pancakes". Something totally random. You were left trying to guess what he really wanted (although, pancakes could've been a real possibility).
He and I clicked right away. I could somewhat predict what he was going to need therefore eliminating his embarrassment when he couldn't express himself correctly.
When he noticed my humming, as we were walking to dinner, he stopped, looked me and said "You're singing! I like that song!" and his face was so full of joy.
He asked me to sing with him.
I didn't want to!! I am not a singer. Not even in the shower. Perhaps, when I'm alone in the van, but I stress--ALONE!
But, his face. I couldn't turn him down. So, we sang on the way down to dinner.
Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
And, the man that couldn't tell anyone that he needed to use the restroom, could sing the words to one of his favorite songs word for word, right on key.
Dwight passed away a year and a half ago. The first time we sang that hymn in church, after his passing, I had to leave the sanctuary as I was crying too hard.
It's been two years since I started at the assisted living home (with a few months "off"), I've created the habit of singing, or humming, very quietly, when I'm assisting residents with what many would look at as unpleasant chores. Showering a resident. Cleaning a bed after an accident. Swabbing the mouth of a hospice patient.
Sometimes, the resident will catch me and sing along. Sometimes, they are so hard of hearing, they don't even know I'm doing it. But, that's okay.
Recently, we had a lady fall and hit her head. She actually required several staples in the back of her head. It was quite the ordeal. Normally, she was a spirited "cool" old lady. You know those old ladies that wear the bright colored Nikes and have their finger nails painted bright blue? She is one of those.
But, the day after her accident happened, she was far from herself.
I was her aide that day. I checked on her often through the day. She slept so peacefully in her chair, I didn't wake her.
Until, it got to be late enough in the day and I knew she hadn't eaten, nor used the rest room.
I gently woke her and explained that we needed to get her up and move around a bit. Eat and use the restroom.
She stated that she hadn't slept that good for a long time! But, she was so dismayed when she noticed she had wet herself.
I explained it wasn't a big deal, her body needed the rest more than it needed the bathroom. I'd get her cleaned up and help her eat dinner. No biggie.
She was so upset, she could not get over it.
I started to sing as I cleaned her up, got out new clothes for her.
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
She stopped her crying, looked at me and asked "What are you singing? I haven't heard that song in so long! Please sing to me."
I admit, I was embarrassed. Singing with someone was very different than singing to someone.
But, we were alone in her room. She was upset. And, I love her.
I sang to her. After, she let me get her dressed, never again bringing up her dismay over the wet clothes. She let me get her cleaned and redressed. I continued to sing to her as I pulled her bed apart and helped her in.
I made sure she knew where her call cord was, and that she had enough light on in her room, to see if she needed to get up.
Told her I loved her and that I'd see her tomorrow.
I do not sing well. I'm probably tone deaf. I don't even know all the words to the song, sometimes.
But, apparently, sometimes, it doesn't matter.
I believe if you do something with love, it will be good enough.