Friday, March 31, 2017

Patients that Changed My Life: Carol

As a nurse, I have the chance to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Some are fun, some are not so fun. Then there are those that change my life, and changed the kind of nurse I am. For privacy purposes, I won’t use real names, but I want to tell you their stories.

To read about previous patients, click here.

In one of my first ever nursing jobs, I worked in a facility specifically for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I found that I loved working with them. They kept me guessing, and usually laughing. We had this one lady, who I will call Carol. She was active, even though she was declining rapidly. She used a merry-walker, which kept her safe when she would suddenly get tired and need to sit down.

She had almost no short term memory. You could have a conversation with her and seconds later, she wouldn’t remember it.

That doesn’t mean that she didn’t remember anything.

She had an issue with me almost immediately. No matter what I did, she got angry, and she would scream at me. It wasn’t that unusual, since she had a temper, but she did seem to single me out more often than not. I had no idea why until a few months into the job when she said something that surprised me.

“Get off my husband!”

I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I let her know that I wasn’t on her husband. Over time, she kept making comments that made me believe that her husband must have cheated on her with an Asian woman. Comments like:

“Get out of my house!”

“Get out of my husband!”

“They’re my kids, not yours!”

“Tell me it didn’t mean anything and you didn’t enjoy it.”

Most people don’t really think about it, but it’s the emotionally traumatic events that seem to stay with Alzheimer’s patients. They may not remember that they just ate, but they remember how people made them feel. Those memories stick with them longer than anything else, even if they don’t even know my name.


Just because they’re confused, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and that they don’t notice what’s going on around them.