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Friday, June 16, 2017

The visit


We visited my friend in a care facility last weekend. Laura and I hurried down the hall, smiling at all the old ladies. My friend was so happy to have company. My visits are shorter and shorter every time, because Jean gets tired and frustrated with the struggle of remembering who I am. Perhaps I need to make friends with more people in the hall; so many want to be visited.

I left, ruefully considering the halls are empty, but the walls lined with old women. The twenty years I was a mother, their dad and I got the children to their grandparents almost weekly. When the girls left home, and my dad had passed away, mom came to visit often, and to stay. I visited my grandmother, drove her to family gatherings, even to my dad’s funeral.

(Dad did not like Gram; nursing her family’s insults of him being a “poor shanty Irishman.” Mom intended not to have Gram at the funeral. She told me she didn’t have time to go get her. I did, but didn’t tell Mom, who was surprised. Later, Mom thanked me.) Sometimes you need to get over yourself.

Laura is going to Pittsburgh this weekend, with our friend Kay, who bought the old house. They’re going to Ikea, to purchase either a bed or a table for a rental home of Kay’s. I confess, I no longer remember which, though I suppose they could be interchangeable, in a pinch. (You should avoid brain injuries; recovery is so slow as to be miniscule.)

How to strike up a conversation? Should I pretend to be looking for something I lost? I could find it later. Or just be straightforward. “Hello. My name is Joanne. I’m here to see a friend, but I need to rest a minute. What’s your name?”


I can’t go until Sunday, so any other suggestions are welcome.


29 comments:

  1. Whenever I visited my mom I stop and talk to a few different elderly residents. I just say "hello", ask them how they are, etc. If they are seated in a place where I can sit near by I might ask them about how long they have been a resident, where they are from etc. They always seem to like it.It's nice of you to visit your friend. They do so appreciate visits though I understand how your friend is frustrated by her memory losses.

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  2. Your second suggestion sounds fine to me. It's not too hard to find common ground once you get in the door. And you'll be able to tell pretty quickly if the person is open to a chat or wishes to be left alone (as some do).

    Honestly, Joanne, I wouldn't have known from your writing that you had an injury to your brain. Your style, substance, etc. is unchanged. It probably helps that you had formidable capability prior to the injury.

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  3. Oh Joanne, I don't know what to say. They are the lonely and what a blessing you will be.

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  4. Joanne, my mom was in an Alzheimer's unit of a beautiful combination Senior apartments, assisted living, and nursing home the last few months of her life (she was 94). We visited daily, but she was unhappy and nothing could change that. I regret now that I didn't just quit my job and keep her at home with me... even though I know it probably wouldn't have made any difference. She wouldn't have been happy anywhere at that point. I guess what I'm saying is it's wonderful of you to visit your friend... even if it helps her (or someone else)just for a little bit.

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  5. Just introduce yourself and start talking about the weather.

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  6. Hari OM
    Yup, that would do just fine... or just a smile and an out-stretched hand can work wonders. Laura will love the big IKKY shoppe outing, I am sure; how delightful that you have connected so well with the purchaser of the old place. YAM xx

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  7. I really like your second suggestion. I did something similar when I was visiting my mother, and it seemed to work well. And had the merit of truthfulness. When I arrived if mama was asleep or didn't want to interact with me I wandered off and said hello to other residents, returning in half an hour or so to see if she was awake/ready to talk.
    And echoing jenny_o on the coherent sentences front. If you didn't tell us, we wouldn't realise.

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  8. I think maybe right off just say you are her friend Joanne from______ and you just came to say hello.

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  9. straightforward would be the best approach. you don't need an excuse to talk to a lonely person. those places are so sad to me, all those forgotten old people who have forgotten their lives.

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  10. My first rotation on the clinical part of my nursing classes was in a nursing home. Such a sad place. So many of the residents had no visitors. The lucky ones had family that cared enough to be a part of their daily routine. Any time you give them is a blessing.

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  11. Such a good thing to do, Joanne. You are brave and generous. It would be a blessing.

    “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” -Shakespeare

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  12. Straight forward is always good. Such a great thing to do, Joanne.

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  13. Hi. Looks like everybody votes for the second idea. I am sure your time will be well spent; visits will be appreciated. Our daughter spent a little time working in a nursing home. She could not take the heartache involved. The people who work there have to be special.
    I agree that, to read what you write, nobody would guess a brain injury was anywhere in sight! May every day be better!

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  14. I think however you approach it, it will still be appreciated. Any type of contact made would be contact enjoyed I do believe.

    betty

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  15. Just start talking. Introductions complicate it.

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  16. I think your idea of introducing yourself and asking to sit a minute is perfectly fine.
    My kids didn't see much of their grandparents, my mother never let me forget that, but we lived clear across the country, I don't drive and hubby was in the Army, often away on manouvers. Getting three under fives to train stations, travelling to stay for just a weekend, then coming home again, was just too much. But all I ever heard was "no-one comes to see me, no one loves me"
    I'm very glad to hear you took your children to see their grandparents for twenty years.

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  17. I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way to do this. Just do what feels right.

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  18. I agree with Colette Joanne. Your posts are always so readable and enjoyable that I am sure you present a good image whatever you say.

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  19. I wonder how many people travel to care facilities to visit with their relatives or friends, passing right by those lonely souls in the hall, never thinking to stop for a quick hello.
    Whatever way you connect will be wonderful.

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  20. The few times when I've had friends and family in convalescent homes, I have talked to everyone with whom I came in contact. It make the whole ordeal better. If they didn't want to talk, that was okay, I either kept chatting away if they seemed alert, or if not, I moved on. Most people really liked to have me sit and tell them why I was there and then they told ME why they were there.

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  21. Second suggestion seems best to me...

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  22. Your idea of sitting down and beginning a conversation is perfect. You are a caring person.

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  23. Dear Joanne, twenty-five years ago I had a friend at a nursing home and visited her weekly. Next to her bed lay another woman in a bed and I got to know her and when my friend died, I just kept visiting. But I never went beyond that one person. Your plan to visit several is so generous and loving. I would suggest you just go up and introduce yourself and say your friend tired from your visit and you have time left and so would that person like to chat awhile. Good luck. I'm sure you'll be welcomed with a smile. Peace.

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  24. You are a good person Joanne,any way will be welcomed.

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  25. aw, probably even a smile would be welcome; sad that some may outlive all the relatives. I remember when my father in law was in a rehab facility I'd take him out on the patio to sit in the sun for a while, he loved it, later he could roll his wheelchair around the facility on his own and he visited all the rooms. Ha. you are getting your fiestyness back I think, good for you.

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  26. So many people in the nursing home where I worked had no visitors. I often didn't know they had families until I read about their children in their obituaries. One patient who was extremely angry and difficult had the kindest, sweetest daughter in the world. Her name was Apple. Apple came in every night to check on her mother. She spent a couple of minutes with her angry mother to make sure she was okay, and then she walked around the floor. She hugged all of us staff members. Then she chatted with various residents. All you have to do is say, Hi--I'm Joanne. If they can talk, the conversation will continue somehow. If they don't want to talk, please don't take it personally.

    Apple is one of my favorite people of all time. I wish she would come to Florida to hug me. I miss those hugs so much.

    Love,
    Janie

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  27. I worked for a number of years in a nursing home. Any of these elderly ladies would be thrilled if you sat down and told them your name and rested with them for a bit!! And don't be afraid to touch them. They miss touch so much!!!

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  28. I go several days a week to visit my husband in the Alzheimers (closed) ward and , when I know it's welcome , just put my hand on someone's arm in passing. They're all beyond conversation but a smile is always welcome , even if they haven't a clue who you are . And every one loves a biscuit .

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