Today was probably one of the most difficult days for Hospice all semester.
Kelsey and I went to Jay’s room, and he was asleep. We woke him up and asked if he wanted company, to which he replied no. So we left.
We went out into the main room where our coordinator, Marie, was with her patient. She recommended we converse with some of the other patients, so Kelsey and I did. I had a very good talk with a woman named Hazel about how she used to work at a newspaper, who had a funny routine of taking meds which involved folding tissues and putting them into her pocket (don’t ask me to elaborate).
What was disconcerting however, was Marie’s patient.
She was a woman named “Oci” I believe, who was confined to a wheelchair, and seemed to suffer some advanced form of Dimentia or Alzheimer’s. Whichever it was, watching her interaction with Marie was incredibly disturbing.
Oci kept saying “Eat smart” over and over and over again. Marie tried to communicate with her but she couldn’t say anything else. Finally when it was time to leave, Marie tried to tell Oci it was time for her to go, which made Oci start saying, “They make my hair so pretty,” over and over and over again. Every time Marie would try to leave, Oci would pull forward in her chair and try to get up, which she was not supposed to do. Marie would then try to get her to lie back down in her chair and say goodbye, but Oci would continue to say, “they make my hair so pretty,” try to get up, and repeat. This went on for about half an hour, and Marie was looking more and more distressed.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to do, and the situation was one I wasn’t really ready for. At some point I got a nurse and told her we needed to leave, and the nurse took it from there.
If there’s one thing I learned from this particular day, I learned that the atmosphere of a hospice shelter is not always a positive one. On top of the Oci situation, there was a man in his room who repeatedly yelled “HEY!” throughout the day. Our patient, Jay, had gotten into a physical altercation with his roommate. People there were suffering from mental disorders, physical problems, and a variety of other things. And through it all, the nurses of the shelter suffer through it.
I was always a little put off by the standoffishness of the nurses at these facilities, until today. It was today I realized that while us, the volunteers may give up just an hour of our day to come visit, these nurses have to go through it all every day, usually through 6 and 12 hour shifts, sometimes without breaks.
Now what puts me off — no, what infuriates me — is how nurses seem to be treated nowadays. Most don’t make a whole lot, have to work a variety of jobs, and meanwhile have to put up with unruly patients, people looking down on them, and feces. It is so unbelievable frustrating that I’ve heard people say things like, “well she’s just a nurse,” or in GED tutoring last semester seeing nurses getting their GED’s because their primary job won’t cover all the bills and they have to get another job. It boggles my mind that nurses seem to be so looked down on, when most have to put up with things the rest of us wouldn’t last two days doing.
I wish there was some way we could give the majority of nurses the respect they deserve, since most (like the ones at this facility) seem to be under so much stress yet never get thanked for all the work they do. In any case, I think I learned a little something about the strength of will most nurses have, the kind I admire and wish I could emulate.