If you need an active illustration of how you need to take the good with the bad, work in a Nursing Center. Every day I run the gamut from being so frustrated, I could cry, to being so happy I can't help but smile. Sometimes in the same five minutes with the same resident.
Mrs. A talks in a word salad. Sometimes from her tone, you can understand what she means. Sometimes, not so much. Once in a while she can really express herself.
One day she was chattering at me and getting angry and starting to cuss me out.
"Mrs. A," I said "Look at these copies I just made. There's a big blank strip right in the middle." I showed them to her.
She looked at me and tapped her temple with her index finger. "Kind of like up here," she said.
Mrs. B was having a really rough day. She told me she'd be happier if she was six feet under. I spent a little time with her and let her talk, mostly just asking her questions about what she was telling me and not trying to comfort her, exactly. Eventually, she started talking about a friend of hers who had the same name as me and by the time I left she seemed lighter hearted, although she was still a little miffed that I had to leave.
The next day her roommate, Mrs. C commented on how it was good of me to talk to Mrs. B and that sometimes listening was better than a pill.
Mrs. D has been uninterested in her meals for a while. She's lost a little weight and we're all worried about her. We're all encouraging her to eat or drink every chance we get. The one day, she held her tray out to me and said, "Do you want this?" When I said "no", she replied, "Well maybe you can find someone else to eat it because I'm not going to."
Mrs. E balks every time I give her medication. She takes it, but only after a little conversation first. One day it went like this:
"Take all these pills?"
"Yes. then that's all for today."
"Gonna swell my stomach," she groused. "Make me look like I'm pregnant."
Mrs. F is another word salad speaker. Honestly, I can almost never understand what she's saying, but I talk to her like I can anyway.
She had gotten a haircut and it was almost too short.
"I wish they wouldn't cut your hair so short. You have such nice hair," I said.
"That's when you get teased," she said and laughed.
I was counting the number of residents who have passed away since I started work on February 27, 2008. It's in excess of 40. But when I think of what I learned from each of them and about the times we laughed together, I laugh out loud.
I am very, very lucky to have stumbled into this line of work.