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Monday, March 25, 2013

My Hospice Journal - "Pleasantly Confused"

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"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely, and the unwanted according to the graces we have received; and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work." - Mother Teresa


For selfish reasons, I am never instantly happy to hear when one of my hospice patients passes away. My mind starts thinking about our visits, how I am going to miss seeing them, talking to them, feeding them, etc. 

This last hospice patient was a lovely elderly lady who was feisty, kind, and "pleasantly" confused. That term, pleasantly confused, was the description I received from the hospice organization I volunteer for when they sent me the details on this precious lady before I ever went to visit with her.  From now on, I am referring to all my Alzheimer's patients as "pleasantly confused". Love it! I only had the chance to visit with her three or four times but I know I will never forget her.

Having Alzheimer's, she often talked to herself and held conversations with people not present. Sometimes I was glad they weren't present because it was obvious in a few of her conversations, she was upset with them. Most have already passed before her, but that didn't stop her from instructing me to go into the other room and tell someone to "shake a leg" since she was ready to go and needed to get home before dark. 

Most of the time she was in pain, but with Alzheimer's, she forgot she was in pain until she felt the pain again. This doesn't make much sense to us who aren't so confused (until now) but it eases the caregiver's mind, knowing a patient in pain often times forgets the pain when their mind/thoughts are back in the garden, taking a walk, or visiting unseen loved ones.

Her favorite thing to do when I was there was to hold her "baby." This was a battery-operated stuffed animal that when activated, will repeat everything you say. To her, this wonderful little buddy offered just the right conversation by repeating everything she had just said. She could remember the last sentence or two she spoke, so when repeated back to her, it was a nice two-way conversation that held her attention and made her giggle. She was only confused during the times the stuffed animal was silent, not realizing it was only because she had not said anything for it to repeat. What a precious memory I have of her holding it close to her face waiting for it to talk to her and after about three minutes of silence she would bring it up to her nose and say "Boo!" to wake it up. When "boo" was repeated back to her, her soft laughter was something I only wish I could have captured on film. I will have to lock that away in my memory and smile every time I think of it.

I cherish the short amount of time I get to spend with these patients. It's a small reminder to me that time waits for no-one. We all have one life to live and the ability to care for those nearing the end of theirs. It's an honor and a privilege and one I will continue to do until I am "pleasantly confused."

R.I.P. my sweet hospice patient. †