In Part 3 in my series of Being a Certified Nursing Assistant: Ms. Dobbs a Southern Belle, I would like to share some memories of a few of the people I cared for, and to me, she was the most special. I hope you find this entertaining, and hopefully, it will touch your heart to the point where you go out and volunteer at a local nursing home.
Ms. Dobbs was a sweet old lady from down South, and she dressed the part. She always wore nice clothes as if she was ready to go out to a fancy restaurant. Her hair was neat and brushed. What also was unique about her is she never went anywhere without her Harry Carey style large, dark sunglasses.
Every night she would sit quietly in her wheelchair with her head down and her hands in her lap with fingers entwined, and each night, I would read the paper, the Bible, and talk about current sports, politics, and other issues...treating her like someone in full control of her cognitive thoughts. I would go on and on for what seemed like an hour. She would raise her head and say in her Southern drawl... "Windy...do you ever stop talking?" I would respond with a quirky comment and we would banter back and forth. She would give me a huge smile, and I would imagine her eyes danced with happiness behind those dark glasses. I really enjoyed her and I know she enjoyed me.
One night, I was walking by her in the dining room and saw a dollar on the floor. I asked her..."Is this your dollar?" She lifted her head sheepishly saying, "Oh yes, it's mine...will you buy me a Hershey's?" So, I went downstairs to the store they had in
the nursing home and brought her back a Hershey Bar. She was so happy. She took the candy bar and had a taste. She then with weak movement and with an obvious struggle, put out her hand to pull my hand. Her hand had a warm, soft touch. The hands showed a lifetime of being a child, a grown woman, a mother, and a grandmother. The skin was thin, the veins showing, the fingers worn with age.
I knelt down to her, so my eyes met hers. She said in a quiet Southern drawl...."Thank you for everything you've done for me." I just responded with "you're welcome." Something was unusual, but I didn't really think about it since every day I came to work and saw the same people.
The next day I came to work and when all my Sundowners came into the room, Ms. Dobbs was missing. She had been to every night groups sessions after dinner for months. I called the Head Nurse and asked where she was. I was told Ms. Dobbs died during the night in her sleep. I was stunned and in a mild state of disbelief. I asked about her wake, and I was told that staff was not allowed to attend anyone's final services. It is sad because some people actually get attached to those they care for with such dignity, grace, respect, and love. Caretakers at times, want to have closure and say goodbye, as well.
Once in a while, I think of Ms. Dobbs...and being her "Windy." I think of buying her the Hershey's and hearing her voice play over in my head...."Thank you for everything you've done for me." Then I smile.
Next: Being A Certified Nursing Assistant Part 4: Joe the Shadow Boxer