Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Beginnings and Endings

Hello everyone! I am excited to announce that this will be my last blog post on this site. I have been asked to move Geriatrics and the City to a new blog site called ChicagoNow. Here I will be able to acquire a lot more traffic, and network with fellow bloggers. I am hoping to make the move next week, and I will keep you all posted on where and how to find me!

Man, these people take their Bingo freaking seriously!! From the 5-7 minutes each of the winners usually take to carefully and methodically pick out their prize off of the prize cart, to the color-coded stacks they make with their bingo chips, to the sheer concentration that is exhibited during this activity that I never see from most of them any other time, it's clear to me that this is a BIG DEAL! But the moment that wins them all was yesterday when one of the particularly gruff and tough residents told her daughter, who has to play for her while she watches, "You better win, or I'll break your legs." Luckily, she won a game, and her daughter gets to keep her legs. For now...

The ability to be territorial and domineering is not lost with age, clearly. It a lot of cases, it is all they have left, and they exercise it constantly. Another interesting example of this is with a mother and son who live on the same floor. She is 98, and he is in his 70's. He is rather young to be there, but has some specific problems that make it necessary. I will call him, "Jack". She is tiny and has the cutest voice, that kind of makes her sound like a witch. I will call her, "Abigail". Today she was wearing a neon yellow Jackson Five t-shirt, and rolled herself aimlessly through the hallways most of the day. He is a man of very few words, he loves chocolate, and he likes to sleep ALOT! As his mother, she still looks out for him and gets very concerned about his well-being. Sometimes she gets upset that he is sleeping so much, and because she doesn't see him when he is awake, she assumes that he isn't waking up, and she becomes worried. Recently, I took her by his room, to prove that he was sleeping and that he is ok, so that she would calm down. I open the door, and push her in, and she sees him sleeping and very loudly, in her cute little witch voice says, "Jack. It's your mother talking to you. Are you sound asleep or just pretending?" He woke up and smiled at her. She waved her little hand at him, and we let him go back to sleep. A mother's work is never done.

Today, Kentucky pulled me aside and said, "Are we still friends?" I said, "Of course we are! I will never stop being your friend or stop loving you." Then I asked her, "What's my name." She said, "I can't remember. I'll just call you my 'boo-key girl'." Later, I asked her to tell me a joke. She replied with, "What's up that won't come down?" I answered, "I don't know, what?" She without even cracking a smile said, "Your britches." I said, "You are so funny, you know that?" She retorted, "If you say so."

Yesterday was probably the last really nice day we will get here in Chicago. So I took them all outside, one by one, or in small groups, and either took them on walks around the neighborhood, or we sat on the patio together. I definitely got my exercise in for the day! One that was especially difficult, but rewarding was a gentleman I will call "Bill." He is in his late 80's or early 90's and is a really tall and large-framed man. He is quite heavy. He has cancer, but is mentally all there. He used to design computer programs and is very smart. Whenever he wins Bingo, he picks out a prize for his granddaughter instead of himself. Anyways, I took him out for a walk last week, and when I did, he told me that he had not been outside since he moved into the home, and that was over a year ago. In fact, he rarely leaves his room. However, I have noticed that more and more lately, he has been coming out and joining us with our activities. Needless to say, he was thrilled with the walk. I probably pushed his heavy chair around for a good mile or so. So, yesterday, he came to me and specifically asked me to take him outside again, which I gladly did. He didn't even know what neighborhood he was living in, or anything about the area. I am very thankful that I have a job that allows me to get outside when it is nice out, instead of being cooped up. That I can get in my exercise time during work time. And that I can get somebody out of their house for the first time in over a year!

Now for a sad announcement. I think we all knew it was bound to happen eventually. I have lost my first resident to heaven. I knew going into this job that this was going to happen, and I was prepared. I feel honored to have helped take care of her, and to have hopefully brightened her life while she was here. I haven't spoken of her before, so I will tell you about her briefly right now. I am going to call her "Margaret". You see, she had a stroke some time ago, and right as she had the stroke she called out her sister's name, "Margaret". As a result, that became one of the few words she could say. She could say "hi", "yes", and "no". Other than that, it was just "Margaret". So when you would have a conversation with her, she thought she was saying exactly what she should be saying, but she was just repeating this name over and over again, with different inflections and what not. She loved watching CSI type shows and had seen them all repeatedly. One day, I went in her room and sat with her while she was watching one. Within a couple of minutes, I thought I had figured out who the culprit was. So I said, "He did it, didn't he?" She smiled and said, "Yes!! Margaret margaret margaret, Margaret MARGARET margaret, margaret." She spent most of her time in her room. So I didn't get to spend as much time with her as some of the others, but I did get to know her sister, who came to visit her almost daily. "Margaret" was very kind and will be missed.

I know that as time goes on, and I get more attached to certain people, some of the passings will be harder. But I prepared myself for this going in. This quote from one of my favorite shows, "Derek", accurately sums up my outlook on this situation, and the way I plan to encounter these moments, "I see people out of life. Somebody sees you in, like a midwife, and I see people out. I make sure that they can go at peace with everything in order. I have been with a lot of people as they die. It is a privilege. I am not scared of it."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

You Would Make a Good Wife

Hey there old people enthusiasts! Sorry I have been MIA for awhile. October has been out of control! Three weddings, two trips out of town, planning a special event comedy show, performing in multiple shows, three volunteer gigs at Second City, and multiple other engagements have left me with no extra time. Plus, this whole "Mercury in retrograde" business was REAL, and totally threw me and the old people through a loop. But rest assured I have been documenting the cute stories and have a whole bunch for ya!

These last few weeks in the home have been very tiring. I am convinced that the goings on with the solar system greatly affect people, especially the old ones. The thing is that the moon affects the tide, and we are made of mostly water, and when you already have problems with your head, such as dementia, it can really screw with your body and brain. For example, on the day of the lunar eclipse, Kentucky couldn't even speak. All she did all day was cry and frantically look around as if she didn't know where she was. When I would ask her questions, she literally couldn't form words, and she didn't recognize anyone. The next day, she slept ALL day. These things happen when people have these types of conditions, but it really gets extreme when the solar system is out of whack!

However, once that passed, I had a couple of really good days with Kentucky. 1 - I got my first kiss from her. 2 - She told me she loved me first, without me having to say it to prompt her. I walked in the room one morning and her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, "There you are! I love you!" 3 - The next day she said, "Hi! I love you! Where am I?" Haha! So I have started spending a lot of time trying to convince her that she lives there and that it is a good thing that she does. It really seemed to be working, even other staff noticed that she didn't say anything about going home for a couple of weeks. However, unfortunately,we've had a couple of set backs with that this last week due to some people telling her conflicting info to try to calm her down, not realizing that it is the wrong approach. But I am working on coaching them, and working more with her on it, and hopefully repairing the damage that has been done. As a result, now, she thinks I am lying to her when I tell her she lives there, and it makes her very angry at me. It is frustrating that poor judgement on other people's part put me back at square one, but I refuse to give up.

Kentucky has had some of her classic witticisms though! Here you go:
1 - Me - "Whats new with you?" Kentucky - "I guess this is now."
2 - Normally, I say "I love you," and she says, "I love you the most cause I'm the oldest." However, on a particularly foggy day for her, I told her I loved her, and she looked and me and said in a very confused manner, "I love you too. I'm much older than you."
3 - Me - "What are you thinking about." Her - "Having a good fling with 'The Intern'"
4 - We were talking about The Three Stooges and she says (about Curly), "I'll take the dumb one"  Me - "Why?". Her - "You get by with a lot of stuff."

So something that really bothers me is having a dirty face. I am constantly working on my skin care, and when I look at the residents, I notice a lot of them are not having their faces properly washed. So I brought in some all natural aloe facial cleanser wipes, and I have been going around and cleaning their faces.Which leads me to one of my favorite things that happened when giving them these mini-facials. I was cleaning a man's face, and one of the women sitting there said, "You would make a good wife." I joked, "My ex-husband didn't think so!" They, of course, laughed!

But this is part of a larger self discovery. I guess I already knew some of this to be true of myself, but the job is reinforcing it. I am HIGHLY independent. And I tend to expect the same out of all people I consider to be healthy and capable people. Therefore, I tend to have no patience whatsoever for most people, which is to my detriment. However, pretty much all of my patience is reserved for people who cannot do things for themselves (except kids, still haven't figured out why on that one), so I feel like I have this endless untapped well of unconditional love, patience, and support for these residents. I am just truly lucky to be able to do this, and excited to continue learning things from them and about myself!

They are needy, demanding, irrational, and dramatic (a lot like children), but for some reason, I totally love it. I think it is just because they have lived this whole big long life and have worked really hard and now it is our turn to take care of them. But I am still trying to figure out all the reasons why this works for me. I am still reflecting and in discovery mode. They really do let you know when they need something. From "Lorna Doone" (the 98-yr old who loves Lorna Doone shortbread cookies") wailing and yelling, "My bottom is burning!" to "Patsy" getting furious with me because she wants new socks, more bobby pins, different eyeliner, new shoes, and more red lipstick. And calling me a "bitch" because I wouldn't take her outside when I was trying to get everyone to church. To Kentucky trying to slap me and calling me a "liar" because I am telling her this is where she lives. I spend me whole day calming people down. Which calms me down. I don't know why. I suffer from anxiety and depression, and I tend to have the ability to get worked up very easily, but working with these guys helps me forget about my own shit. For some reason, I have always been the type who is able to calm myself when others around me are freaking out. For Lorna Doone, I came to her side and asked her what was wrong. Since her "bottom was burning", I decided she needed to get off of it and go lay in bed. For Patsy, I took her outside later that day and had a nice long conversation with her about all of her cosmetic needs, and she ended up being pretty happy with me by the end of the day. And for Kentucky, I will just keep giving her hugs and kisses, telling her I love her, and trying to make her comfortable in her new home. The act of calming others, calms me.

I will end this post where I ended the day last week. I was doing trivia with them, because they LOVE trivia. And one of this quizzes had trivia about hugs and kisses. Once of the questions was: "What is a 'bear hug'?" One of the residents answered correctly, and then I asked her if she wanted a "bear hug"? She did. Turns out, ALL of them did. So I went around the large circle giving each and every one of them a big bear hug. Even the lady who sits in the corner, doesn't want to be around people, and doesn't speak wanted one. When I gave it to her, she kissed me on the cheek.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You're A Real Southern Girl

I grew up in Southern Illinois. It is a lot more of a small town, southern upbringing than a lot of you city slickers are aware of. I also, somewhat, grew up in a nursing home. My grandmother, my father's mom, had advanced Alzheimer's when I was born, and I only ever knew her in a nursing home, in a bed, unable to speak. As I child, I didn't know that this was something that people were scared of. That people had a hard time being around the elderly. It became second nature to me, because I visited her often, and since the elderly tend to LOVE it when a young child is around, they all liked seeing me. So I spent time talking to people there. Side note: Today, there was a 3-year old visiting a relative in the nursing home. I asked his father if I could bring him into the day room to chat with all of the residents in there, cause I know how much being around children makes their day. He graciously said, "yes" and let his son come hang out with us for a bit. They were on cloud nine. Especially Kentucky. She said she has "42 great grandchildren". She doesn't, but I will let her think she does.

As a result of spending a lot of time in a nursing home, after my grandmother passed away, my trips there did not end. I remember asking my parents to take me to the home to visit other people after she was gone. I still have a vivid memory of standing by the front door, with a stack of paper on the front table and a pen in my hand. I was writing, "God loves you" on several sheets of paper over and over again to hand out to the residents when I got there. No one told me to do this, it was just what came naturally.

I also remember, as a young girl, having a neighbor who lived about a half a block away, who I visited often. I don't recall how I met her, how I started visiting her, or anything about how it came about. If I were to take a guess, it was probably due to one of the many times I just went around to all of my neighbors doors, knocking on them and introducing myself. I would go around my neighborhood just talking to people. It was a safe, small town, during a time when this behavior was relatively harmless. Some neighbors appreciated me calling, others not so much. However, this woman loved it. All I remember about her was that she lived in a huge two story house all by herself. She was elderly, but I am not sure how old. I just remember thinking of her as a grandmother's age. I would go in and visit with her and talk with her for long periods of time. I also remember, that she used to give me clothes and jewelry for my costume chest. In fact, one of the dresses she gave me ended up being the dress that I wore as a costume in the first two plays I was ever in! (5th and 6th grade, the junior college down the street, Our Town and Christmas Carol). It looks as if my love for the elderly and my love of performing crossed over many years before now.

In high school, I started doing volunteer work to get scholarships for college. The first summer, I volunteered at a daycare and a nursing home. By the next summer, I just chose the nursing home. Screaming children pooping themselves, not for me. Screaming old people pooping themselves, my destiny!

A lot of years passed between this volunteer gig and my job now. A lot of things got in the way. I went to college and I partied. I got married, and well, we all know that was a dumb thing for me to do. I moved to Chicago, which was a great decision, but got off to a rocky start. I worked in some jobs when I got here that just weren't for me. But, then I got divorced! Wahoo!! Then I started doing comedy! Wahoo!! Then I left my shitty job! Wahoo!! Then I got this job! Wahoo!!

The job that I just left behind had a lot of wonderful people at it (and some really not so wonderful people.) And I am still in contact with some people there that will always be very important to me, who encouraged me to follow my dreams, and support me to this day. I love them. But there were some people there, who I am ashamed to say, made me question who I was as a person. I let them make me feel like I was not a valuable employee, that I was too emotional and sensitive, and that there was just something wrong with me. I began to feel that I was supposed to be a robot that kept my head down and shed it's personality. In this world, I have encountered very few groups of people that I can't fit in with, but this was one of them: accountants. No offense to my accountant friends, I love you. But an office full of this personality type and just one of me, well I have never felt more isolated.

I recall a day that I was presented a "Happy Divorce Cake" by my sweet, wonderful, and amazing co-workers at the tax firm. It was an amazing gesture that brought me to tears. Of course that immediately made them uncomfortable! Haha! Then I asked, "if any of them would hug me?" Nope! Hugs are not something they did. No display of emotions. Which is fine. That is who they are. I accept them for this, and I still love them for being there for me in other ways. (After all they helped me with retirement planning, doing my taxes, and giving free financial advise). We need all kinds in this world. But when I tell anyone else that story, their jaws drop. "They refused to hug you?!"  I now have a job where all I do all fucking day long is hug people. Pardon my french, but dammit it feels good. I hug people. I hold their hands. I kiss their foreheads. I tell them jokes. I tell them I love them. That is my job! After a failed marriage and a failed attempt at administrative work, I finally found a population of people who want my love just as much as I want to give it!

Ok! Enough about me! You want to hear cute old people stories don't you!?

I walk into the room this morning and make eye contact with Kentucky, she gets a big smile on her face and exclaims, "There's my sweet girl!" We shoulder shimmy, and I sit down next to her. I asked her if she "remembered my name?" For the very first time, today, she did.

"How you feelin?" I asked Kentucky as I held her hand and rubbed her fingers.
Her muffled response sounded like she said, "rub my fingers".
So I responded, "I am rubbing your fingers,but how are you feeling?"
And she replied with the same response again, but with more conviction.
So I said the same thing again.
And she said it again with even more persuasion. She loudly proclaimed,  "WITH my fingers!" I am "feeling with my fingers!"
Ah, she was making a wonderful joke with one of her funny sayings, and I was completely missing it. These folks keep me on my toes.

Then I said to Kentucky, "Well what are you thinking about?"
She replied, "you can't handle it. It's too bad."
I responded, "sure I can! Try me!"
We went back and forth like this for awhile, and then she remarked, "If it makes me shiver, then it will break you up!"
I questioned, "Is it about a boy?" And she giggled.
Then I asked, "is it about the 'Intern'?"
Her response was simply,  "yes."
I said, "what about the intern?"
And she blushed and grinned and said, "tryin to do the hoochie koochie," and just chuckled.

I gathered them all to sit around the table with me. I read the newspaper to them. Usually half of them will fall asleep during this. Today, I read a story about a father taking his pre-school aged daughter camping. I looked up and all eyes were open, sparkling, and on me. They were all smiling and enjoying the story. In fact, the 97-year old woman, who always falls asleep and can barely talk, was looking at me with big puppy dog eyes and an unwavering stare. I call her "Lorna Doone", because those are the shortbread cookies she eats for a snack every single day. So I started a discussion about this article. They were ALL very talkative and responsive. I asked them if they had ever been camping. Turns out not one of them had. Not even Kentucky. So I proceeded to tell them about my camping experiences. Which they ate up! They loved it. They were all smiles and I had all eyes and ears. No one sleeping on me today!

Then I turned on some music and started dancing around the room. At which point, one of the residents said, "There you go again! Dancing! We love you." I said, "I love you too."

Then I asked "Patsy" to dance with me. She is one of the few who isn't in a wheelchair. She was shy and coy about it at first, but I assured her that I have seen her dancing before, and she is great at it! Everyone watched us and smiled and clapped. Then I went over and danced with "The Queen of Junk Mail" in her wheelchair. She was hesitant at first, because she didn't think it was possible in her wheelchair, but I insisted and made it work. Then I asked another resident to dance. She is completely hunched over, but uses a walker instead of a wheelchair. She thought about it for a minute, and then decided it was a good idea. We held hands and very very slowly waltzed around. I told her she was a great dancer. She informed me that she studied at the Arthur Murray Dance School for many years. I'll call her "Ms. Murray" because of her dancing. She says she loves to dance, she loves to sing, and she loves art. Well so do I! We often sing together, and now we can dance together.

After we were done dancing, I sat down next to a sweet old black man who is from southeast Missouri. An upbeat 50's song came on and he said, "This music makes me feel so young. It makes me feel like I am picking cotton again. White people do it too, not just black people. We all got along and worked together just fine. They loved me. I was very popular cause I was very good looking. I am not good looking anymore cause i am old." I kid you not, these are the exact words that came out of his mouth. It was really wonderful and inspiring. I told him, "You are still good lookin'!"

He then started joking that I probably don't know anything about the south. To which I responded in my southern twang that I can bring out just as easily as I can drink water, "I'm from Southern Illinois. The Carbondale area. I used to go fishing and camping with my grandpa. My grandma used to fry that fish and make home made rolls and fried okre. I used to swim in creeks and take hayrides." Then a resident sitting with us looked at me and said, "Wow! You're a real southern girl!" Then "Missouri" said, "Shoot! You DO know about the south. I can't tell you nothin'! You tellin' me somethin'!" Then he turned to the other resident and said, "She southern just like me!"

Then it was time to read Kentucky's newspaper to her. She subscribes to the 4-page county newspaper from back home that is filled with the misspelled, run-on sentence ramblings of 80-year old women writing about what their neighbors had for breakfast yesterday. (Not unlike the misspelled, run-on ramblings in this blog). I was reading an obnoxious "fire and brimstone, you are destined for hell" Christian article to her. To be fair, I am a Christian. I am spiritual, and not really religious. I like to keep an open mind, and I rarely, if ever, criticize other people's religious beliefs. But this article was a bit much. I thought she was enjoying it as I read it to her. After all, this is where she comes from. This is her hometown newspaper. And she was just quietly listening. Afterwards, I asked her what she thought of it. She proclaimed it was "CRAP." I asked why she thought that and she said, "Cause anybody can write anything they want in there and they dont have to know what they are talking about." Ah, my fellow southern gal, dreamin' of the "hoochie koochie" and spouting off about the bullshit article, you are a real southern girl!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"I love you the most, cause I'm the oldest."

Either the moon cycle was on my side Tuesday, or I am doing something right (or maybe both), but the residents were in GREAT spirits on the 3rd floor! (Wednesday and Thursday I was on the 4th floor. These were very tiring days, and I did not have the energy or time to write anything down).

We started out the day with a live performance from a musician from the Old Town School of Folk Music. He played Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, and Ricky Skaggs on his banjo and guitar. The days tend to go pretty well when we start out with musicians, it seems to calm the residents and put them in better spirits. Additionally, it makes my day easier because that is activity time where I don't have to do anything. The musician was hired by a family member of the 4th floor (the dementia floor), but we are able to bring 3rd floor residents up to listen, as well. So the majority of my involvement consists of making several elevator trips full of wheelchair/walker/oxygen machine Tetris designs.

As you can imagine, Kentucky LOVED this! Her favorite genre of music is country western. The previous week when the musician was there, he asked for requests, and she requested Ernest Tubb. He didn't know any, so he promised her he would learn one, and play it the next time. He delivered, and she was glowing! He printed out the lyrics and asked her to hold them for him. Her usually shaky hands were completely steady for the 4 minutes he played while she held the music up for him. She looked up at him from under her pink ball cap adoringly the whole time. Her eyes sparkled, the grin did not leave her face, and she sang along knowing every word. I think this speaks to the immense power that music holds over people. She cannot understand that she lives in this home now, she can't remember how old her kids are, she needs to be reminded of my name every day, but she knows every word to this song. She recalls the nights spent with her family in Kentucky singing these songs around a campfire.

All of the residents enjoyed this lovely performance. It seemed to put everyone in a good mood. During the performance, I keep my eyes on the residents to make sure they don't need anything. For instance, a dementia patient who gets out of their chair that shouldn't. Or a resident who frequently needs to be taken to the restroom. But today, the issue I noticed that I needed to address was a 4th floor resident, who kept grabbing a 3rd floor resident. So the 4th floor resident is a gentleman who loves the ladies, and misses being able to have that kind of "affection" so to speak. Well he happened to be sitting next to my 3rd floor resident who I have mentioned is the "Queen of Junk Mail." We'll call him "Tiger." So every time he would grab her chair, grab her hand, or grab her leg, she would look over at him. In this day in age, being as protective as I am of women being accosted by men, I immediately reacted. So I went over there and pulled his chair over a little bit, every time he reached out, I stopped him, etc. After doing this a few times, he seemed to be done, so I walked to another part of the room to address another issue. When I looked back over, I saw the Queen of Junk Mail reach out and grab Tiger's hand, and hold it and smile. They sat there for several minutes holding hands and smiling. Turns out, I wasn't protecting the ladies, I was being a HUGE cock block!

The thing is, the physical ability to be affectionate may have diminished quite a bit, but the desire is ever present and just as strong. I know I have mentioned how affectionate Charmer is with me. He holds and kisses my hands, he tells me how pretty I am, and on Wednesday he told me I was his girlfriend. I have to be careful to make sure that he doesn't get the wrong idea, and I work at making sure to maintain a professional demeanor about it. I think I must remind him of someone from his past. He gets a huge grin on his face and a sparkle in his eyes whenever I come around. He had been so depressed and hadn't been eating anything until I started spending time with him. Now he seems to be doing much better because he has someone to talk to and flirt with. However, on Tuesday, I was wearing my hair up, and in the middle of a table discussion with all of the residents, he very candidly blurted out to me, "I don't like your hair like that. It makes you look older." My response was, "Well I am still A LOT younger than you!" which got a laugh!

Patsy also has a never-ending drive to pursue affection. As I have mentioned, she loves primping, fixing her hair, and putting on make-up. In the last post I mentioned her horrible outburst in the beauty shop. Well the next day, Tuesday, she was in much better spirits. She had combed and fixed her hair to her liking, and was ready to go. She loves to be told how pretty she is (who doesn't?), but when you tell her this don't say, "you look really pretty today." You will be met with the response, "Don't I look pretty everyday?". So, anyways, I stopped by her room on Tuesday morning to see if she was doing any better after the Beauty Shop Meltdown, and I told her how pretty she looked. She explained to me that she was glad she looked nice, because she is "looking for a boyfriend". Later in the day, I turned on some music to which her and I danced around the day room together. Then all of us sat down at the table together and she seated herself next to a new guy and proceeded to flirt with him. He did not seem to appreciate her advances. I feel you Patsy, what's a girl gotta do around this city to get a date?! Geez! Make-up, hair, dancing, these men just don't appreciate us! ;)

I ended my day with them in one of the most memorable and cherished activities yet. Technically, what I had to do with them for the day was over. We had someone coming in to do a project with them, and I was just putting them back in their spots, listening to music, relaxing, and chatting with them. I was sitting at a table with a couple of residents, and Patsy came over from her table and asked if she could join us. Then others wanted to start joining. This is unusual. Usually I have to initiate putting the tables together and gathering everyone to sit around it with each other. On this day, they were requesting it. Typically, at this point in the day, Kentucky, wants to sit in her recliner and go to sleep. She has no interest in joining the group. However, today, when I asked her if she wanted to join in, she was very eager and enthusiastic to come sit with all of us. We all just chatted and laughed and told jokes. At one point, Sweetie Pie said something very sweet (I don't remember what), which prompted me to tell her just how sweet and kind she was. I then took that opportunity to go around the table telling everyone what I liked about them, giving them compliments, and focusing on their strengths. This made them happier than I could have imagined. One resident, this tiny little Japanese woman who never goes anywhere without her Word Search Books, was grinning so fiercely and blushing uncontrollably and giggling when I complimented her. Then one of the compliments I gave to Charmer, was telling him what a beautiful singing voice he has. I asked him to sing us a song. He sang us every word to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Everyone sat and listened and enjoyed and clapped vigorously when he was done. This whole experience has been one of the most cherished moments I have ever had.

After it was all said and done, I was putting people back in their spots for their evening news. I put Kentucky back in her recliner, and told her I loved her. Her eyes shone, her face brightened, and she smiled and said to me what she always says to me, "I love you the most because I am the oldest." What I learned today from all of the affection, love, flirting, laughing, hugging, and hand holding is that at the end of your life, you may have forgotten almost everything, but you NEVER forget how to love or stop needing it. As you get older, you learn how to love better, more unconditionally, the way these residents do. And you also need it more than ever, just like a little baby. I don't know if it is possible for Kentucky to love me more than I love her, or more than I love any of them, but they are definitely teaching me about the true meaning of it.

At the end of my day, when I got downstairs, I realized something, for the first time since she has lived there, not once, not one single time, did Kentucky say anything about wanting to go home.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"I call her 'Crazy'"

As we all know, gossip and name calling doesn't end when you reach adulthood. Well that goes double for "seniorhood". A lot of these residents have forgotten what year it is, how old their kids are, and who their first relationship was with, but dog gonnit if they don't remember one fight they had with another resident months ago, and tell me about it as if it just happened every single day.

In particular, there is one woman who loves to whisper to me about everyone in the room. And any woman who has short hair, well she calls her a man. She refers to them as "he" every time she talks about them. "He hates me." "He wants to kill me." "Don't set him near me." You have to forgive her though, she has dementia and relives her mother dying of breast cancer a few times a week and she weeps in my arms. She just doesn't know any better.

Plenty is said about her too, though. "Kentucky" is one of the "he's" that she refers to. And Kentucky has a mouthful to say about her too. Kentucky sits in her recliner and quietly lets me know what she thinks of everyone in the room. She tells me that the woman who calls her a "he" is not her friend and she doesn't like her. She refers to the intern has her "little man". She winks at him and waves and informs me that she LOVES little men (well that makes one of us I guess, Kentucky). She tells me which of the male nurses she has crushes on, and when I call her out on winking at more than one of them, she shushes me and tells me I "wasn't supposed to tell them that!" But more than anything, she likes to point out the woman who I mentioned loves to wear red lipstick, flirt with men, and look at herself in the mirror, and Kentucky will say to me "I call her 'Crazy'". And I can see why she thinks that. This woman goes from laughing to angry outbursts in which she is inconsolable within minutes. Obviously, I know the real reasons why. But Kentucky doesn't, so she calls her "Crazy".

I'm going to call her "Patsy". I am going to call her this because of Patsy Cline's song, "Crazy", and because she was so glamorous, like this woman. Well today, Patsy had an outburst to end all outbursts. Early in the afternoon, I had some fun music playing, and she closed her eyes and stood in place, and just danced until her heart's content. She laughed, and sang, and danced, and went around muttering to all of the residents. Then she decided to go to the beauty shop, and that is where things took a turn for the worst. I have heard stories about her outbursts in the beauty shop.

She frequently asks people to wash her hair, or fix it for her, but when they try, she gets really mad. Well my office is next to the beauty shop, but I spend most of my time on the floor with the residents. She had been gone about two hours when I went to my office, and heard the screaming coming from the other room. I go in there, and she is giving the beautician holy hell! The beautician has been coming in for years, so she knows her, and is not upset by it. However, Patsy keeps grabbing at the curlers in her hair and getting everything so badly tangled that the beautician can't get the curlers out.

Patsy keeps getting up and trying to leave, grabbing at the curlers in her hair, and screaming and yelling at everyone. Since the beautician is not an octopus, she doesn't have enough hands to control this situation. So somehow, I was able to somewhat calm her down. I held her hands so she quit grabbing at her hair, I told her repeatedly how pretty she looked and that she was almost done, and I told her stories to try to distract her. Her wrath definitely turned on me. She cussed me out and called me a liar. She angrily walked around the room and gave me the dirtiest looks you have ever seen. But with the two of us working together, me to distract her, and the beautician to get the curlers out of her hair, we got the job done.

Afterwards, the beautician told me that "everyone who works there should be as kind and patient as me." That I am "incredibly patient and very good at this." And that she "wouldn't have been able to do it without me." She gave me hugs and candy for helping her.

Truth time. Pretty much my whole life I have been told that I am one of the most IMPATIENT people there are. And I absolutely do not disagree. I am quick-tempered and have a very short fuse for what I consider bad behavior. I also, cannot stand the anticipation of surprises, or not knowing what is going on. I opened my Christmas presents early and re-wrapped them. I flip people off when I am driving more times than I am willing to admit. I have been scolding people since before I knew how to speak (my dad tells me I wagged my finger at people and said "jojojojo". Yes, yes, I know, now my cat's name is Jojo. Coincidence?) But for some reason, all of the patience I was given, has been reserved for this population. Anyone who knows me knows that I am rarely calm, and I rarely have measured reactions in the moment. I guess I have it all saved up for this. Here's the thing: if you are a capable person who knows better, then I have no patience for you! Get your shit together!!! Hahahaha!! But old people, they get a free pass with me. So you can call me "Crazy", if you want, because I know better. But she doesn't. So she gets to be "Patsy". But I will let Kentucky call her Crazy, cause she doesn't know any better either, and it's funny!

No here is a list of cute things that happened, and/or that were said:

1 - Kentucky won at Bingo today. She picked out a necklace that I donated to the bingo prize cart. When I told her that she said, "well it stays in the family."

2 - The sweetest woman in the whole world lives there. For now I will call her "Sweetie Pie". She got a call from her granddaughter yesterday. When she was on the phone she exclaimed, "You did!!!! I am sooo happy for you!". It sounded as if maybe she got engaged or pregnant or something. So when Sweetie Pie got off the phone, I asked her what had happened. She said her granddaughter had bought a car. I said "why did that excite you so much?". She said, "Because that is usually something men do. She bought her own car. I bought my own car when I was younger. I am just so proud of her."

3 - Sweetie Pie also won at Bingo today. She also got one of the necklaces I donated. When I told her that, she said, "You're not getting it back!!"

4 - Mr. Charming (the one who serenades me), won a Cubs figurine at Bingo today (we have a lot of freaking winners, alright?). Another thing I had added to the donation cart (thank you for the donation Lynne Roberts). When I told him this, he tried to hand it to me and said, "I won it for you."

5 - Conversation I had with Kentucky:
K - You can come over to my house. I paid my rent.
Me - Are you a good cook?
K - TV dinners.
Me - We really are cut from the same cloth.

6 - I am waiting by the elevator, and I make eye contact with Kentucky. I smile and do my shoulder shimmy. She starts wiggling her shoulders too. Then she summons me. I walk over there and she says, "I wiggled my shoulders to get your attention because I wanted to tell you that you and I have a special bond, and you are going to come home with me. Not physically, but always in my mind. I love you, and I love that young boy (the intern). I love little men!"  You guys, I can't make this shit up!

7 - Today, I taught two women what the internet was, and what my Iphone was. I mostly just took that opportunity to show them pictures of my cats. They LOVED it!

Well, this was all in one day's time! Who knows what tomorrow will bring!! xoxo

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Old People Really Love America

So now that this is a blog, I feel a weird pressure to start writing some sort of daily masterpiece. Which I am too busy with my comedy schedule to do. So for the time being, I am going to keep writing it, as if it is a post on Facebook. Then maybe after awhile, I can start to develop a more "bloggy" style.

Today's nursing home tales:

1 - Hopefully, by now, we are starting to recognize who "Kentucky" is. She is a sweet, Southern gal, who is often sad because she wants to go home and her family doesn't visit. You could say she is my "favorite". We are forming a special bond. I have been asking her if I can be her honorary "adopted daughter." She always says, "yes." I have been doing this because I am hoping at some point, she will start to think of me like a daughter, so then it will start to feel like she has a visitor 5 days a week.
     I have also mentioned that I have a little shoulder shimmy I do to make her laugh, that she calls my "sexy dance." Well today, when I walked in the room, I said "Hey girl heeeeey!" Then I did my "sexy dance." Well as always she laughed and her pretty blue eyes sparkled, but on top of that, for the first time, she said "Hey Girlfriend!!" And then mimicked my "sexy dance" and started wiggling her shoulders back at me. We did this several times throughout the day today.
     Later, I walked into the room, and I said, "Hey girlfriend!" And she said, "Hey girlfriend, I love you!". I said "I love you too!". She said, "I love you more, because I am older."
     Her afternoon was a little more rough. She gets really depressed and anxious in the afternoons. But I put her in her recliner, hugged on her, and rubbed her hands. Then I pulled up her hometown newspaper on my phone, and read her the stories. Then she fell asleep. This all prompted the nurse to tell me that I am "just so sweet.". I said, "I love being here and love them probably more than they love me and love me being here." She said, "I don't think so, they really really love having you here."

2 - The gentleman who I have mentioned likes to try to woo me, let's call him Charmer, was very sleepy today. It was quite rough to get him to wake up for any of the activities. Well there is a resident on the floor, who I described on FB awhile back as, "Loves to look at herself in the mirror, wear red lipstick, and chase men. I don't understand a word she says, but I 'get' her.". Well it turns out she is schizophrenic. She has major mood swings and can be very volatile (again, doesn't sound that far off from me.) Well she is constantly flirting with all of the men on the floor. Today, when I couldn't get Charmer to wake up, I noticed that she leaned over and kissed him on the shoulder. Then later on, when I was trying to get him to wake up for church, she asked me if she should "go over and kiss on him so he would wake up?" It's like having a magical mirror to my future!

3 - On Sunday's, we wheel them all downstairs to a worship service. There a wonderfully kind and amazing female chaplain, who gives a lovely general Christian church service. Since I was brought up in a church, I am not religious but I am spiritual and I believe in God, and because I am just a participating lunatic, I sit there with them, and follow along, and sing my little heart out! (Other assistants just sit back and watch, which is more than fine. I just choose to get in there with the residents. I mean I might as well get paid to work on my salvation ya know?)
    Last week the chaplain mentioned how much she appreciated me singing along and what I nice voice I have (she is a woman of the cloth so she is kind, but I didn't think they were allowed to lie! ;) ) This week, she approached me after the service, and again told me how much she appreciated my participation, and what I lovely singing voice I have. She then asked me if I would like to do a solo sometime. She thinks the residents will really enjoy that. Oh goodness! What have I gotten myself into? We all know that I will stand on stage and bare my soul and tell every deep dark secret about myself in the form of jokes. But singing in front of people? That is downright terrifying!! But I said "yes." Cause you know what, these ppl are hard of hearing and half asleep anyways! So why not!:?
     She asked me if I have any favorite hymns. I do. It is "On Eagles Wings". But that is a funeral song and I think these ppl having to listen to me sing is punishment enough. I shouldn't be singing funeral songs to them, ya know?

4 - Speaking of singing! Today, I had the whole room break out in song! Let's back up! So these old people really love America! We listen to music all of the time. Every time I turn on the CD with patriotic songs on it, they all get really excited and enthusiastic about it. They are some of their favorite songs. Well today we were playing sports trivia, and a question about the Star Spangled Banner came up. One of the residents loves to sing, especially songs about America. So I took that opportunity to ask her to sing it for us. She started singing loudly and proudly. Well after a few lines, I encouraged the residents to join in, and I started singing it as well. Like a row of dominoes, one by one, every one in the room started singing along. By the end of the song we had everyone in there singing loudly! It's hard to explain how cute that was to watch. Everyone's eyes were gleaming, and they were just so darn happy about it.
     It's weird what a difference there is between their generation and my generation when it comes to pride in our country. I wonder why? I have to say, that I love their glass half full approach to things. They watch the news everyday, they read the newspaper everyday, they understand it all. They aren't shielded from anything. I certainly don't think things are perfect, or even close to it. A lot of bad shit happens all of the time. But, for me, it is just so nice to be around people who keep a positive attitude and carry a sense of pride in what they have helped build. I mean, if anyone is gonna be a Negative Nancy, I would think it would be wheel-chair bound, denture-clad, nursing home residents. But they are not. Not even one bit. They see those glasses of thickened water half full!