Friday, May 6, 2016

Loneliness in Skilled Nursing

I work in Skilled Nursing, which is a fancy word for long term. Usually. Sometimes there will be short stay, someone who is only with us until they’ve recovered enough to go home on their own. I see a lot in Skilled Nursing. There are odd family dynamics when someone’s dying, or when they’re getting close. Family that once got along sometimes start fighting over money, over insurance, even over the best kind of care and stop speaking to each other.

Probably the saddest thing I see is the loneliness that’s so permanent in Skilled Nursing. I honestly can’t count the number of times one of my patients has asked me something along the lines of:
Can you stay a little longer? Can you just sit and talk to me?

It’s heartbreaking. Even more than that, it’s hard, knowing I would, if I could. I do when I can, but often, it’s nowhere near as much as they need or crave.

I have somewhere between fifteen to twenty patients in the evening. At night, I can have up to forty. To try and get everyone what they need, just the very basics, takes me running in and out of rooms. There’s not a whole lot of time for conversation. I do enjoy what little conversations I do have, but I know it’s not enough.

So many of us crave human interaction, that assurance that we aren’t alone. But for those in Skilled Nursing, their families are busy, which is understandable. Nurses and CNAs have fairly ridged schedules as to what needs to get done when. Even activities are scheduled.

There’s way too much time to sit alone in their room, with no one to talk to. There’s a TV for them to watch, but that doesn’t exactly substitute. It’s heartbreaking to see, and more often than not, when I can sneak into their rooms to talk, they have such fun stories. They’ve lived lives I can’t even fathom, and they want to share it before no one remembers them.

If ever you're lonely, visit a nursing home. Chances are, there's someone feeling exactly the same way. They crave friendship just as much as you.