I never thought I would like aged care. Previous first-year nursing students told me all of the doom and gloom, and told me “not to let aged care put me off nursing”. But you know what, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have enjoyed it. Yes, of course it has its sad moments of course. And it seems to skyrocket between super-pleasant-amazing-moments to omg-this-is-so-fucking-sad-moments. I had a teary moment as I watched one of my patients reach for his wife’s hand (as they often hold hands) and she pulled away, giving him a look of aggression and ‘who the hell are you’. She suffers from dementia and wasn’t having a good day. He left his hand lingering there for awhile, just in case. She never took his hand.
I almost feel quite honoured to be spending time and helping somebody’s father or special grandma. One of my favourite patients has pretty severe Alzheimer’s but is just the happiest, bubbliest lady you will ever meet. She laughs out of nowhere, and her face lights up every time you speak with her. In working with people with Alzheimers, I wanted to learn how to communicate with people who can’t speak or understand and tried out a few of the techniques. It works! It really does work. Simple strategies like
- minimising environmental stimuli
- sitting in front of the person
- making eye contact
- open body language
- speaking slowly and breaking it down into simple terms or instructions
- using exaggerated facial expressions and/or gestures
- and exercising patience and being caring, friendly and relaxed towards the person… it all makes a difference.
I definitely want to experience a lot of the different fields of medicine but I think aged care is a really good basis for learning how to care for someone, especially those who are completely dependent on you for just about all of their care. It is a big wake up call, that’s for sure.
Upon complimenting her on her wonderful 88 year old husband (my patient), his wife smiled, turned to me and said “we have had a good life together, both of us and we have no regrets whatsoever”. That is what I want to be saying when I am that age. Content with how I’ve lived my life and what I have achieved. Without a feeling of not having lived their life to the full, being at peace with the end stages of life and accepting the inevitable. That is how I want to be. I cherish these moments and will remember them forever.