In my brain- it was a natural fit. I already had the white shoes-(Years of waitressing= white non-skid shoes.) and I love people and taking care of them! I was pretty sure it was even biblical- fits under the orphans and widows thing or honoring your parents- (Even if it wouldn’t be mine I was honoring.) To my 20 year old brain, it all made sense. Of course my next job should be to care for elders in need at a nursing home. Duh.
I walked in for my interview- and stopped to chat with those gathered near the front door in their wheel chairs- obviously longing for some attention and chatter. “I got this.” I thought, My current waitress job was at a restaurant known for it’s older clientele. And they loved me. I was a shoe in.
In the administrator’s office -overflowing with paperwork and files, I aced the interview. She hired me on the spot- then took me for a tour after giving me my employee handbook and training materials.
Which is when the panic set in. The people in the rooms were not exactly like the people I’d envisioned, or those I’d met by the front door.
I was thinking: “Hanging out with people like my grandparents.” These people were not like my grandparents. These people were sick. Hurting. Limited in their abilities. They needed bedpans and diaper changes. These people said awkward things that made me feel confused at best, and extremely uncomfortable at worst. In the middle? Just plain at a loss. Some talked to me like I should have a clue what they were talking about- often with insistent questions I didn’t have answers for. I didn’t.
I kept smiling and nodding.I tried to talk to everyone as the administrator introduced me as”the new girl starting soon.”
Inside? I was CREEPED OUT. It wasn’t the smell or the messes that did it- it was the Alzheimers, demential and the senility. It was the impossibility of answering a question and having it understood. It was in short: ME.
White nurse shoes purchased or not- I was not cut out for this.
I never showed up for that job. I just couldn’t do it.
Years later, when My great grandmother had to be placed in a nursing home due to her own dementia and limitations- I visited often- but the same feelings haunted me. Not understanding people and not being understood or remembered scared me.
I went anyway.
Decades later- we’re facing the beginning of a new journey- with my much loved and somewhat-crazy in-laws. There is some dementia. A stroke. Several other health issues- all of which added up to their needing more hep than the family can provide.
They aren’t in a nursing home. They’re in a lovely assisted living apartment. But, I’ll be honest- it’s hard. As much as I love them- it’s hard to see them lose independence. It’s hard to not be able to make them happy. (They’re not exactly fans of their new accommodations and I tend towards people pleasing… so yeah- that’s fun.) It’s not the place-the place is great and so are the caregivers- it’s the idea of not being at home that bothers them. I get it.
I just can’t do anything about it.
Problem: Dementia and situations like this: still freaks me out.
But, this is my inlaws! I love them!
So- I go.
Not showing up- isn’t an option here.
Tuesdays are my day. I take over whatever they need. I try to think of things to do with them or things they may enjoy while we’re not there- I keep hoping it will make it easier for them.
But, I keep showing up. Yes- it’s sometimes awkward. (Last week someone decided that depends are as good as pants. Um -they’re not. GO PUT SOME PANTS ON. OY. It burns!)
Things are said that make me feel uncomfortable. There are people hanging out by the front door just longing to talk to someone. Abut: anything. Somedays it takes me a while between hitting the button to be buzzed in and actually walking the 50 feet to their apartment. Cause I Have to talk to the lonely ones.
My inlaws- are actually on the high end of wellness – and we’re thankful for that. Assisted living is not the same as a nursing home. (Still trying to convince them of that.) But it’s still hard.
Partly it’s because of : ME. Give me room of drooling crazy hyper kids? I got that. A room or auditorium full of people to speak in front of? No problem. Love it. A little nervous that I might suck- but for the most part: bring it.
Coming face to face with dementia? I’m tempted to go fetal. I’ve read books. (I research everything to death.) But, it still comes down to just going- and facing my fear.
So I do. And I will again today.
I’m trying to find humor in the awkward. (Every week we have the same discussion about my tattoos…. it goes like this: “No, it’s not new. It’s scripture. I don’t think Jesus will send me to hell for having scripture on my foot…..if He does- that would really suck.” They do not find this humorous. They usually switch the TV to Jimmy Swaggart to make sure I at least hear the word and might someday be saved. Ironic: ager a dose of swaggart or other TV preacher- they immediately turn on the afternoon soaps. which I’ve never watched. Because I think they’re just garbage.
However- the dichotomy between TV preachers and the soft core that is afternoon soaps? I just-don’t get. It’s also really uncomfortable sitting with your father in law while 14 people climb in and out of bed with each other- mostly while threatening and plotting against each other. Awkward. On so many levels.
I’m trying not to take their anger and frustration personal.
I’m trying to not be judgmental. Apparently failing at that. I ALMOST edited the last paragraph out because it’s so judgey- but- I try to be honest about what a jerk I am- so I’m leaving it in.
So- decades after slipping out of those white nurse shoes because dementia creeps me out- I now weekly go by choice. (And without getting paid- just saying.) This time it really is to honor my parents well- my in-laws whatever.
It’s still awkward. It’s still kind of creepy. But apparently God won’t let me off the hook on this one. Whether it looks like it or not- I have to believe I’m making a tiny difference.
But i’m not wearing white shoes- they make my feet look fat.
Dear Lord- this is so hard. Please give my inlaws peace and strength and dignity in this hard phase of life. Give our family grace and mercy and courage and endurance to help them. especially me- Lord- You know intimately well how outside my comfort zone this is….and yeah- I get the joke- if there is one. My little disappearing act won’t work here. So go ahead- teach me something. Even here- in dementia and assisted living and the mess of emotions and stress that swirl around it…. Thak you lord for the amazing people who are called and equipped to care for elders- without fear and with love-they amaze me! I love you lord- amen.
Questions for you my reader friends:
Have you ever just plain not shown up for a job? What was it and why?
Have you ever gotten a job only to find it was NOT a fit?
i think there are 2 kinds of people- (totally making this up) those who can handle crazy kids- and those who can handle crazy old people- which are you? Or neither?
Ive said before that ‘sandwich” generation is a misnomer- it’s more a hot panini press-of stress – than a simple sandwich. Am I the only one feeling it? Are your parents or in-laws or grandparents moving into a more dependent phase of life? How are you coping? Or not?
PS: The Theme for MOPS International this year is “Be you, Bravely” who knew it would apply to assisted living visits? It does. Trust me.