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In one of my first jobs as a nurse, I had a patient whose name was Jimmy. He was an active guy, and because of his dementia, he wasn’t able to sit still. He would pace the hallways for hours, and even during meals, he couldn’t sit down long enough to eat. The more stimuli he had, the more agitated he would get.
I think one of the reasons why I connected with Jimmy was because he reminded me of my dad. He was obviously a hard worker, and he usually thought that he was our supervisor. He would come up to the nurses’s station, go through the clipboard and then nod his head and tell us to keep up the good work. He loved it when we asked him for help or advice.
One of the things that I realized about Jimmy was that he did really well with personal, one on one interaction. He was definitely confused, and he didn’t make much sense when he talked, but he craved the human interaction, and not just being in a room full of people. He needed to make a connection.
I started saving his meals at dinner, and put it in the fridge in the kitchen. Then, after everyone was asleep, I would take him in the dining room, heat up his food, and the two of us would sit and talk. While he had the human interaction, he was able to sit. He was able to be distracted enough to relax, and he was able to eat something.
Even after he lost his memory and his home, he still was Jimmy. He never lost his identity, no matter what the disease did to him. Yes, there were moments when his personality would change, but as I got to know him over time, I realized that he was still the man he was his whole life. He was a supervisor, he was a father, and he was a friend.