Update: Yesterday was pretty uneventful. Mom was happy and ate well. She made a few funny wise-cracks which is always fun. They didn’t always make sense, but neither do mine. 😉
We welcomed a new resident to the Sweet 17 yesterday, a sweet lady I will call Mrs. Pearl since her real initial will get confused with others with the same. She was super kind and was more clear than many of the Sweet 17 even though this wasn’t her first memory unit rodeo. Her family was all there to help her settle in and get pictures and pray with her. I quickly discovered that they are also wonderful folks and I expect they will be there quite a bit too. 🙂 I love new folks.
Even in great examples of bringing in new residents like yesterday, it does make me melancholy, for sure, because I remember taking mom to the memory unit. Mom was happy while we were there that day and confused why we could ever leave…much like most of the ladies. Mrs. Pearl didn’t seem confused when I left last night, but she was an exception to the rule. It is up to the nurses to provide sure-extra-special care those early days to solidify that the damsel in distress will be taken care of well. For the most part, mom’s facility does this well although keeping the same staff is critical…and sometimes they have been weighed and found wanting in that area. You simply MUST remove bad help and fight hard to keep good help, the SAME good help, in a memory unit. These patients…these wonderful ladies and gentlemen…NEED consistency to be ok with their surroundings in a super challenging time anyway, but especially so until they are more settled in.
Think of it like this:
You are blindfolded and stuck in a plane and delivered all the way to the the Australian outback. When you arrive to your new home village in the bush, your blindfold is removed and you discover primitive people sitting around a fire making S’mores composed of kangaroo tail, funky looking mushrooms and some ground up bush tucker fruits. You quickly discover you know nobody and the native folks speak a vastly different language. What is your first order of business? You search for anything useful and familiar to cling to. You ask if anyone can understand your words and, if you find one that also seems empathetic, you cling to them as your guide home. Now imagine your new guide isn’t there and you have to start the process over again. You don’t know what you can eat, where to sleep and what, if anything is safe. Add to the joy that your memory is broken and you suffer from hallucinations and extreme anxiety. Suddenly having familiar faces becomes a key to life. That is how I imagine the life of a new Sweet 17 member if the nurses constantly change and if nobody familiar visits (most of the Sweet 17).
PLEASE, nursing home administrative staff…find good help, train them well, and pay them enough to keep them! Please! When you have to hire new folks, have them shadow with the previous for a long time if possible. They can teach the new staff the unique needs of each resident. My family knows more about the ladies that the new people do at mom’s facility. Baths, meds, feeding, toileting, hygiene, etc…and all a routine that is hard to develop. Trust is critical in each of these areas. Consistent, well-trained staff makes these much, much better. It is so important that new staff transitions go well so the new face appears as a smiling harbor of safety instead of merely another stressor. It can be done! There is money and a desperate need. 🙂
(Note: I am NOT ragging on the staff here…just suggesting something that I am certain will make things in transition go better. 🙂 I know that exceptional care is mission critical to them.)
New resident/family faces. I love them. I get them and I feel their pain. I have been there.
New staff faces. The Sweet 17 and I want to love them…once they are ready (trained) and it gets easier and more familiar. Until then, we wait anxiously. 🙂