One has to see the fun and laughter in any situation, whenever one can. It's the best survival technique I know. And none more necessary then when on nursing home visits.
No matter how 'nice' a home may seem, how great the level of care is and how clean and well presented the patient may appear, it is never as 'nice' as one's own sweet home. And the desire to return to ones own sweet home never diminishes, despite the continuing ill health that the patient is completely unaware of.
So the visits are always fraught with emotional roller-coaster rides, as we coast the varied emotional presentations that frequent every visit.
We look around at all the other residents and notice the many emotional states that are regularly on show with them too.
Some are upsetting for sure, but some can make you smile and give you a giggle!
I can't visit my patient without first by-passing the ever-smiling A, who sits in the entrance hall with her hand out-stretched waiting to hold yours and to have a chat. Usually to ask 'do you have a cigarette'?! Every time! I enjoy my little chats with her.
Then there's the other A who is quite funny, in her confusion, and who has a lovely singing voice. When she sings her favourite song 'Memories' - on constant repeat - sure you'd have to join in!
There's also the lovely D who calls all females 'Lady'. Incessantly, until you hear him and respond! He usually wants to offer you a sweet - from his coveted brief case.
The gentleman that is R loves to have a chat with you too, to tell you all his latest family news and to share his photos with you. He always remembers your name too.
These encounters can make visiting in the communal area, as opposed to night time visits in her room, really .... 'interesting.' When the 'conversation' gets too much there's always some background noise to tap into, once you block out the upsetting stuff that is.
The old black and white movies on the TV, like Breakfast at Tiffany's and even some Shirley Temple Movies. She of the teeny-tiny-tapping 'Good Ship Lollipop' fame who sadly passed away yesterday.
Rest peacefully Shirley Temple-Black
They also play some fabulously nostalgic music from the big-band crooners, reminiscent of the residents' era.
Songs that I enjoy too like the many Frank Sinatra's Hits and Dean Martin's That's Amore or Mambo Italiano
These are all pleasant and important memory-stirring exercises for the residents, many of whom have Dementia and Alzheimers. I too enjoy listening to them....and sometimes even sing along! Anything to help spark a memory ;-)
It's strange the thoughts that run through your head, as you sit there listening to this music, whilst trying to block or merely deal with the often confusing and distressing conversations.
Like, what music would they play for the future nursing home residents of my era?
Would it be all Andre Previn, Celtic Tenors and Katherine Jenkins?
Some Michael Bolton and George Michael perhaps?
Maybe a bit of Thriller from Michael Jackson?
Would the be cheeky and play On The Road to Nowhere from Talking Heads or AC/DC's Highway to Hell ?
Or would they be daring and include some Madonna songs - 'Like a Virgin' complete with pointy-boobs.
Or how about some 'Hanky Panky'?!
Who knows what memories that one might evoke - from my on-stage dancing days of course!
I do of course hope it never comes to this and it is a long, long way down the line.
The 'Road to Nowhere' and the 'Highway to Hell' are long and winding and stretch far ahead. They are paved with all the fun and living that's yet to be had.
And long may that be so :-)