My Most Memorable Residents

There have been several memorable residents. When I first came here, Evelyn and Mamie sat in the lounge. Evelyn did crossword puzzles out loud and Mamie, who always wore a hair net, sat quietly. They reminded me of our cafeteria ladies at school. Evelyn, a former teacher, was very proper and frequently made comments about the revealing attire on some young ladies along with loud expressions of her disapproval. I admired her intense honesty. Their surroundings put Evelyn and Mamie together and they were inseparable. I also found that some residents did not look like residents. One walked around, took care of herself, and often helped other residents. I was here a month before I discovered she was actually a resident.

When I first came to the nursing home, I stayed pretty much to myself. But a nurses’ aide suggested that I talk with a resident who had been a nurse. Theda was in the room next door to me. I met her as she wearily headed back to her room late one morning. When I asked if she was named for Theda Barra, the actress, she could not believe anyone knew who that was. After that, I watched her morning routine of heading to the empty dining room at 10 a.m. She had dietary get her a cup of coffee. Then, she would spend quiet time away from her oxygen watching the bird feeders and the activity behind the building. Sometimes I chimed in to talk and ask questions. I wanted to know how she could be so calm and adjusted. She said she came to the nursing home so she would not be a burden to her daughters. She felt her adjustment was easier because she made that decision. Theda was usually up for a visit but on many days I could tell it was a physical struggle.

Evie was a woman who liked to have fun. I was told she had been a “partier” in her day. She got through each day winking and flashing her toothless grin. She loved to be clean and smell nice. When I gave her bars of soap, she beamed with gratitude. It was great to get her something because she enjoyed it so much. After dinner, Evie would go for a smoke break, and I went along to chat. We would remain outdoors talking while she picked up cigarette butts with her reacher. I was always concerned that she would fall into the flower bed, but she always smiled and told me she wanted to do it.

To Evie, eating was a celebration. When relatives brought her favorites peanut butter pie and peanut butter fudge, she always came to my room to share them with me. When I said she was making me fat, she just winked and smiled. Following afternoon shift potlucks, she would get me and we would raid the remnants in the break room. The staff gave Evie the okay, and they knew we enjoyed their leftovers.

If I did not see Evie in the hall, I checked on her. One day I found her crying in her room. Her favorite performer (an Elvis impersonator) was coming that afternoon. Evie loved him and usually got her hair done, dressed up, and put makeup and jewelry on when he came. But on this day she had no money to get her hair done. I went straight to the beautician and offered to pay for Evie’s hairdo. But the beautician insisted on doing it for nothing. After the performance, I saw Evie in the hallway. She had on a black dress, wow earrings, and her hair was perfectly coiffed. When I complimented her, she thanked me tearfully and told me that it had turned into good day.

Marguerite had been a business lady and in her 90s she still dressed the part. She had run a medical clinic for her physician brother. We had many chats about best business practice. Marguerite was tiny but she was mighty. I loved listening to stories about her life. Visiting her room was like stepping into a storybook of her favorite things. Marguerite talked frankly about her failing health to me and I managed to give her something to smile about. She told me she was comforted that I was right across the hall and could turn my call light on if she needed help.

My most amazing memories were of two residents with dementia. Each babbled indistinguishable words but I listened intently knowing they were trying to communicate with me. On separate instances each resident stopped babbling to me and said, “You are such a pretty girl.” The first time I was alone and wondered if that is what I really heard. But the other time a nearby aide confirmed she heard what I did.

Most of these memorable residents are gone now. A few moved out to other living arrangements, but most passed away. When a resident dies, we miss them and their family. Sometimes it is difficult for family to return after the death of a loved one here. But the circle begins again when a new resident moves in.

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