Several years later, I was working in a different nursing home, and made the decision to become certified as a CNA so that I could work on the Alzheimer unit. This also meant that I was eligible to take shifts on the floor with the other CNAs to help care for the residents.
This was a God sent opportunity, to be sure. It helped my cope with the darkest moment of my marriage. My husband at the time was an alcoholic. He drank all day long if he was not working. He drank every single day. “You need to stop drinking so much.”, I would say, and his retort would be, “ I’ll stop drinking beer when you stop drinking soda.”
Living with an alcoholic is terribly difficult. I found myself taking shifts at night to avoid coming home to him. It turns out that it was necessary for me to take the extra shifts on the floor, assisting residents with personal care needs, since his ability to hold a job diminished as his drinking increased. But, my first love was the recreation program, especially the sensory programs.
A typical day in my work life often looked something like this: The elevator opened to reveal the Dementia unit. There was a group of five women looking at pictures. To their right, three men sat at a table sanding wood. In the left rear corner of the room, three women folded towels. Nearby, a man talked to his daughter on the telephone. There was a blind man in a wheelchair, keeping time to the music he heard across the room. The charge nurse gave a report at the desk about an overnight fall. Another nurse was accessing a new resident.
Facilitating the sensory program was my favorite group of the day. This was a program conducted in the solarium on the upper floor of the facility. I felt it was more meaningful than most other programs, being designed to benefit those who needed stimulation the most; the low functioning, often bed ridden residents. And this is where I felt most needed. The nursing assistants escorted their residents into the solarium while I continued setting up for the program. On the round table, I placed a white tablecloth; upon which I set the items we would be using that day. One artifact had been selected for each one of the senses. One for smell, one for movement, one for touch, one for vision, one for hearing, and one for taste. We often did this group in themes, such as a beach theme in summer. We began with the sense of smell, using a honeysuckle lotion. This was rubbed onto the skin of those who wished it. This was followed by five minutes of a beach ball toss. For visual stimulation, we focused the group on the colors on the ball. Next, we helped the residents in the group feel seashells as tactile stimulation. Then, each resident listened to the sound of the ocean through a large conch shell. Finally, we offered the group a taste of vanilla ice cream and closed the program, thanking each of our participants. After stimulating each of the senses with the group of five women and three men who attended each morning, my partner and I thanked all who participated, then noted their levels of active or passive participation.
At 11: 00 A. M. the program finished. We then returned the residents to the common room to wait for the noon meal. The other activity assistant put on a selection of soothing music, then helped to bring the residents to the dining room. The nursing assistants brought their residents into the dining room. Each nursing assistant helped their residents wash their hands then, offered them a clothing protector.
After the meal, the room was set up for the afternoon’s activity programs. These included Kickball at 2 PM, and a reminisce group, which my partner loved to do. Additionally, there was a folding station set up in the back of the room. There was a puzzles section, a reading section, and a pacing area (where agitated Alzheimer’s residents could safely pace.) Recent additions were the baby dolls section (complete with dolls, stroller, and basinet) and a visual stimulation section for low functioning residents. For the men there was a wood working section. The other activity girl played Kickball while I watched over the room to prevent falls with the newest resident hovering over her shoulder repeating, in her tiny Irish brogue, “Is it time to go home now, dear?”
I worked in that particular nursing care facility for about seven year. Then, my son got married and wanted to start a family of his own. We talked about my going out to Virginia, so that I could be a bigger part of my children’s lives. After my husband passed away, that is exactly what I did.
For the next several months, I lived with my son and his wife, while I looked for work in the area. I was fortunate to find a job in an assisted living center, not far from where we lived. Because I still did not drive, I took a cab to work when I did not have another ride. After about a year, I decided to return to school and get my associates degree in health care administration. This was relatively simple to do. I found a college that offered the program I wanted, and applied to the distance learning program. I enrolled in September of 2009, and completed the program in 2011. Then, I had the opportunity to go for the BSHS/M (Bachelors of Science in Human Services/Management). I completed that program in June of 2014. During this time, I also wrote two books, one of which has been published. I also published a Bible study.
I enjoy writing, and often dream of becoming a well- known novelist of inspirational romance books. What I spend my time writing, however, is usually health care related, or faith related. I began blogging on the topic of Epilepsy awareness at the end of last year. It was only a matter of time before I began to write a book such as this one.
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