Today I had my second visit with my precious hospice patient. After our visits are over, I can't stop thinking about the time spent with this patient and my observations of all the Alzheimer patients sitting or walking nearby. Although I can't give specifics (names, location, etc.) of each visit due to privacy issues, I can and want to journal these thoughts and feelings after each visit while they're still fresh in my mind.
As I sat and listened to my patient tell me more stories about his life, his loves, and his interests, which were repeated countless times with a different story line or version each time he spoke, I also glanced around to take in what the other Alzheimer's patients were doing. I couldn't help but be in "awe" of an elderly husband sitting on the couch holding his wife, fixing her hair by pushing it gently away from her face while caressing her hand, patting it as if to tell her everything is going to be ok. I felt my heart swelling with love for them as they displayed their love for each other and I wondered how long this loving husband came to this place to visit his wife, just to hold her. What happened next almost made me giggle out loud as I realized they were both Alzheimer's patients when the aide came over and told the little old lady "she just can't do that to everyone" and gently helped her to another chair across the room away from the older gentleman. Ok so they weren't husband and wife after all -- but I think they still needed each other's companionship and affection. From giggling to myself back to my heart sinking as I watched them look at each other from across the room and shake their heads at each other while lifting their arms and shrugging as if to say, "We have no idea why that lady separated us but we don't like it." Not having their story and not knowing if they were "Alzheimer Soul Mates" or just simply enjoyed attention from anyone, I decided the aides knew what they were doing and maybe the next time I visit, I will pick up where the story left off with these two adorable patients.
The only other observation from today's visit was a cute elderly woman, maybe five feet tall, staring at me. I would be having a discussion with my patient and glance up to her looking at me from across the room. As I kept talking to my patient, this elderly woman got up and came over and sat by me on the couch. My back was to her as I was turned toward my patient who was sitting in a recliner beside me. But I felt her presence. I stopped talking for a minute so I could turn around to see what she was doing. She was still staring at me, smiling. I said, "hello." She responded "hello". I continued talking with my patient, but after a minute or two turned toward her again. I smiled and said, "hello". She smiled even bigger and said, "hello". This doesn't sound very interesting but let me assure you, it was. Seeing her face light up every time I turned around to say hello made me wonder if maybe she needed an "Alzheimer Soul Mate" as well. She slowly got up and moved on, knowing exactly where she was going in her safe environment... a recliner nearby.
These visits truly awaken me. It confirms how temporary life is, how love is truly ageless, and sometimes, as my patient will attest... it truly is all about the ice cream. You can throw the other food away! :)
Thank you Jesus for guiding my steps and giving me strength to work through my fears so I can witness the beauty of life.
I think it's time for some ice cream.