May I come in, Ms. Lewis? I asked, after knocking on the resident’s room door.
“Please, come on in” she answered cheerfully.
Ms. Lewis was making her bed. Although she was advised not to walk in her room by herself, she was ambulating around the bed, straightening out a beautiful bed quilt.
“My daughter made this comforter,” she told me with pride.
“I see you like to make your own bed. But remember, the girls can help you,” I reminded her. I was concerned about her risk of falling. Ms. Lewis had sustained several falls at home, and a couple at the nursing home, since her recent admission.
“I know. I had a fall today. I won’t get to go back home. It’s all my fault,” she replied, in sad tone of voice.
“Ms. Lewis, it’s not your fault. I know you are feeling stronger and you prefer to do things by yourself.”
Ms. Lewis lived with her daughter. While her daughter was at work, Ms. Lewis remained in the home by herself. For a couple of years this routine worked out quite well. But the arrangement became complicated when Ms. Lewis started showing forgetfulness and confusion, and more so when she had falls which resulted in her hospitalization.
Going back home was not an option for her. Ms. Lewis’ daughter and other family members had discussed the subject at length and come to the conclusion that, although Ms. Lewis came to the facility initially for rehabilitation services, the family had already planned for her to stay on long-term care.
Ms. Lewis had showed great motivation in therapy. She talked constantly about wanting to go back home. But she still faced health challenges, and her acuity was not improving. During her stay, she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Tears began rolling down her face. I drew closer to her, and as I hugged her, I saw some Guideposts magazines and a Bible on her bedside table.
“I see you like to read inspirational stories, Ms. Lewis.”
“Yes, I do. I also read the Bible, and I pray God every day. I pray that I can go back home.”
I looked back at Ms. Lewis with compassion. It broke my heart to see her pretty eyes turn teary again. Knowing that her going back home was not an option pained me even more.
But who am I to have doubtful thoughts? I criticized myself.
I immediately realized that Ms. Lewis’ predicament was actually teaching me a lesson of faith.
“You are working hard in therapy, Ms. Lewis. Keep your motivation. And don’t give up on your faith.” It was strange but I truly didn’t think of the words I said to Ms. Lewis. It was as though my words just came from my heart. Ms. Lewis smiled.
Several weeks later, Ms. Lewis’ daughter came to my office, quite anxious.
“I know my mother is almost finished with her therapy. We don’t think she can go home, but she thinks she can.”
I called for a meeting with the Interdisciplinary team. We met with the daughter and other family members. Ms. Lewis was invited as well.
I noticed Ms. Lewis was quiet. She sat on the back of the room.
I am sure she is praying, I thought.
The meeting started with some turmoil when family brought up safety issues if Ms. Lewis were to go back home, staying alone during the day while her daughter was at work. I glanced at Ms. Lewis. She remained quiet, and calm.
The therapists explained that Ms. Lewis had actually shown remarkable physical improvement. As the meeting progressed, it began to turn into one of the most amazing meetings I had had with a family. The therapists explained that her dementia was not going to go away, but if she had someone with her at all times providing supervision for her safety, she could definitely go home.
Unexpectedly, her granddaughter stood and said: “Grandma, I'm going to quit my job to help you at home.”
We sat in silence for a few seconds. Everyone was astonished. Then smiles blossomed on everyone’s faces. Especially Ms. Lewis’ face. She lit up with an expression of hope restored.
The logistics for Ms. Lewis’ discharge were discussed, and a tentative date for her to go home was scheduled right away. Her guilt-ridden family members showed signs of evident relief. Soon, the meeting joyfully adjourned.
As we were leaving the room, Ms. Lewis, walking with the assistance of a walker, managed to get close to me. She looked at me, and smiled. I smiled back.
“Your prayers were answered, Ms. Lewis,” I whispered to her.
“Yes. They were.”