A Bath & A Chair

No talk of death and suffering today.  Today I bring you stories of two happy victories. Today I will tell you about a bath and a chair.

(Not to be confused with a bath chair.)

Here is the story of a bath.

I got report on, Mrs. Smith, a patient with Alzheimer’s who the off going nurse warned could be combative.  “You might even need three people to change her.” She was incontinent of bowel and bladder and wore an attends.

When I spoke with, Mary,  the nurse aid I was working with, I told her we needed to go in together to change and turn her.  Mary put me off and said she would be back to help me.  This went on for a couple of hours.  Every time I approached Mary she would tell me how she had to help so-and-so nurse with so-and-so patient.  Then she would disappear.

Finally I was about to get sideways.  Enough is enough.  So I asked the other aid to help me because Mary was too busy.  Of course the second aid had her reasons not to be able to help, but I suspect she could tell I was ready to take it to the next level and had the brains to tell Mary that she’d better help me because out of the blue Mary appeared ready to take care of our patient.

At last.

So in we go together to get Mrs. Smith cleaned up.  Mrs. Smith did not enjoy getting cleaned up in the least.  She grabbed and hit and told us we were hurting her while we as gently as possible washed her face and body.  In Mary’s defense I must say that she does give an excellent bath.  She brings in supplies that she buys herself with her own money to pamper her patients with.  By the time we were done with Mrs. Smith she looked and smelled like a beautiful flower.

Our timing couldn’t have been better because within 30 minutes of finishing in walks Mr. Smith.  He sat down at his wife’s bedside and told her, “I am so happy to see my beautiful wife today.”  I went in to speak with him and he shared how he had been taking care of her for the past few years and within the last couple of weeks she had declined and he was unable to do so.  It was hard to imagine that just a few weeks before she was walking around the house and able to feed and dress herself with minimal assistance. He said it had been difficult these last years as most of the time she didn’t really even know who he was or that they were husband and wife.

He went on to share that she had been a biology professor at the university I had went to and he too was a professor in the science department and still active at the university. When I glanced at the table near him I saw he was reading a book on my “to read” list: Rust, The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman.  I asked him about it and he said it was pretty good explaining someone had given it to him because they thought he would like it.  The book in his lap was a page turning murder mystery which I don’t remember the title of.

Life is so unexpected.  We have to play the hand we are dealt.  This man was handling life’s difficulties with such grace.  I hope that I can always remember his example when I am faced with challenges.   I really enjoyed meeting this couple and am happy that the bath was complete and Mrs. Smith looking was lovely when her husband arrived.

Here is the story of a chair.

Another patient in my assignment for the day also had dementia.  However, she was in the beginning stages and was able to carry on a conversation fairly well.  The aid assigned to help me with this patient was Judy.

Her family arrived and called me into the room to ask if we had been getting her up in a chair through the day.  This was the first time I had cared for this patient, but I explained that, no, she had not been getting to the chair.  To which the family said, “She’s been in bed every time we come.”  The patient piped up and said, “Yes, she has.”

So I inquired would she like to get up and sit in the chair for a while. The patient piped up and said, “Yes, she would.”  The family replied that they thought she would because when she was at home she would sit in the chair off and on throughout the day.

I was secretly amused and delighted with the way the patient referred to herself in the third person.  Off I went to find Judy and ask for assistance getting our patient up to the chair.  Judy had at least 8 reasons why she couldn’t help me.  However, in this case I felt I could do it myself because the patient was not combative in any way and was not much bigger than a minute.

In no time I had transferred the patient to the chair by the window so that she could look out whle she visited with her family.  I told the family I was concerned for the patient’s safety and did not want her sitting up without someone in the room with her or a chair alarm.  They voiced understanding and assured me they would call before they left so that I could either put the patient back in bed or put a chair alarm on to monitor the patient.

I again located Judy to update her that the patient was up in the chair and the family would let us know when they were leaving.  Judy was astonished and alarmed, “You got her up in a chair?”  Off she went to witness the situation.  After verifying that I had indeed sat our patient up in the chair she asked, “Aren’t you afraid she’ll fall?”

“No,” I replied, “Not really.  As long as her family is in the room with her I think she’ll be fine.”

In my experience we are so tied up in fall prevention that we take away some of our patients’ dignity and independence.

I always want to remember to balance keeping my patients safe without needlessly taking anything away from them.

All names were changed in these stories to protect identities.


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