Time to sit down
It is never easy when someone decides to sit to be safe. That is what happened to an older female resident I will call Evelyn, who has had trouble walking for many years. Evelyn told me she had polio as a child, which made walking difficult.
Each year, Evelyn has had an increasingly difficult time getting around. When she lived on the front hall, she was closer to the nurses' station and dining room. When she moved to the end of the back hall, Evelyn had a long walk to get anywhere. She always complained about it but could make it.
She was returned to the front hall but walking was not easier for her. Evelyn became very aggravated when she had to leave the dining room because of incontinence. The trek back to her room took time. Many times, the aides transported her back to her room in a wheelchair so she would not be late to a meal.
In late November, Evelyn turned 75 years old. Though she knows she was born a few days before the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, she has lost track of the year she is living in – and still thinks she is 72 years old.
When I noticed she was confused about her age, I kidded her and reminded her it was 2016. When Evelyn did not notice she had said the wrong age, I said nothing else. She had no idea.
After her birthday, Evelyn has deteriorated and had even more difficulty walking in the hallways. She started being quite late to meals. Therapy tried to work with her, but she refused. She asked to use a wheelchair. For a while, she could walk to the dining room for snack time. Eventually, that also stopped.
Several weeks ago, Evelyn's face became badly swollen. She was sent to the hospital and admitted. The hospitalization improved her health, but her ability to move and walk did not. Evelyn returned slower and weaker.
I wondered if part of what is ailing her could be depression. Evelyn is overweight and with little exercise it will not get any easier for her to move. At first, the nurses and aides encouraged her to move the manual wheelchair with her legs and arms. She resisted.
Now, even when Evelyn tries to move the wheelchair, she has little success. The nurse manager told her she would need to be moved to a sister facility where she would receive more care. Evelyn asked the nurse manager to stay.
Some days it looks like Evelyn is giving up. It is difficult for me to watch someone go downhill. Evelyn told me she hurts, and I am sure she does. Since she can no longer ambulate, it makes her world so much smaller. She is not as involved with the hustle and bustle of daily life here because she cannot propel her wheelchair, either.
She was motivated to walk to meals and activities for a long time even though it probably hurt. Therapy and the nursing staff can encourage Evelyn, but at this time in her life staying motivated is up to her.
Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is an incomplete quadriplegic and uses a power wheelchair to get around. Her computer is her “window on the world.” This blog shares her thoughts and view of life as a nursing home resident as well as ideas of how it might be improved in the future.