This past week I visited two clients in the same nursing home here in Westchester County. It’s not by coincidence they are in the same nursing home, it’s one I like and suggest to families. Small, good care, little or no bureaucracy. Not big on looks, but never confuse looks with the quality of care.
I stopped by Phil’s room first. A client for over seven years, I had to tell him his caregiver of equal years, was no longer coming to do day shifts. The caregiver had been with him as he transitioned from home to nursing home. Phil has a very small world, his brother in Ireland, Jim his caregiver, and me. He was now losing a third of his world, of his family. Phil reached for my hand, and I placed my hand on top of his. Never one for physical contact he asked me, “Will Jim come to visit me?” “Will he call me?” The truth was I didn’t know the answers. But I continued to hold his hand, now a little tighter, and told him I hoped so.
Down the hall and in the day room sat Betty. She had also transitioned from home to nursing home. My early days were spent outside her door, in Eastchester, trying to come in. “No,” she would say. “You were sent by my son and I don’t want you here.” Fast forward two years. A broken hip, and Betty was now a nursing home resident. Her only son is in St. Louis and not a frequent visitor. I am now a welcome addition to her life. Truth be known, I miss that old feistiness. Go ahead Betty, I secretly say to myself, throw me out. Like the old days, like the old Betty. But no, I come to the end of my visit and I reach over to give her a kiss. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for,” she says to me. I wondered, as I walked away, when was the last time someone hugged her? Put an arm around her?
Two clients in a nursing home in Westchester. A hand held, a kiss given. Saying I understand, not with words, but by being.