Patient: Did that smile get you married or divorced?
Patient: “What would you do if Jesus came down and asked you to have 4 babies for him?”
Nurse: “I’d tell him I’m not his girl.”
Patient: “That’s not the right answer. I’m going to run over your kids with this cheeseburger.”
Nurse: Are you hungry?
Patient: Yes. (holding my hand, he pulls it into his mouth)
Nurse: You can’t eat me!
Patient: Why not, I’m hungry.
Me: Preforming Suspicious Minds and dancing for a hallway full of patients.
Patient: “Baby Cakes, you are full of some kind of fizzy juice and wiggle squirts.”
Patient 1: Is that a strange witch?
Patient 2: She never came back. I didn’t see a hat.
Patient 1: Because that old man’s been coaxed.
Patient 2: That’s terrible. I should warn him.
Patient 1: Little man in Spokane, has a rich man, that never wanted to lose control over his sweet fella.
Patient 2: Spokane has good food.
Patient 1: Well, he’s somewhere in those woods and he gave me a pen.
Nurse out loud: Did David Lynch write that conversation?
Nurse: “Do you have a pacemaker?”
Patient: “No, but I do have a cell phone.”
A few days ago a resident gave me a small bell tied to a string. She said that I should ring the bell to know what I mean to her.
This is what that bell tells me every time it rings: “I may not remember your name but thank you for being here for me, keeping me safe. I may not know exactly what you do for me but I do know that when I see you I smile and I laugh. You may fade from my thoughts when you walk away but you are always in my heart guiding me to experience joy in my every day. And when you leave here after a long shift feeling as though you may never recover from the exhaustion of being a nurse, ring this bell and know that you made a difference in one life today.”
I keep this tiny bell on a string in my car so that every time I leave the office I am reminded of making a difference in at least one life every day.
I have the best job in the world. I get to help amazing people live a full dignified life with Alzheimer’s Disease. The people who shaped our world into the amazing place it is are now shaping my world as I continue to hold theirs into shape. It is a fascinating cycle of learning how to let the lives of others inspire my imagination while simultaneously being an anchor for them to hold on to reality. It is often like trying to direct a movie where none of the actors speak the same language as each other or the same language as me. But in the middle of all this chaos are real stories.
A resident brought a DVD set to me stating, “I have no need of this. I was there, in the control room, for every Apollo mission. Maybe you want to see this.” So I graciously accepted the set. We went on to discuss his work with NASA and the space program. He agreed the only thing holding me back from being an astronaut is the fact that I can’t do math. Our mutual laughter made his story my story.
This is how Alzheimer’s Disease should be treated. With stories not drugs and isolation from the world. Stories should be fostered for as long as someone can continue to tell them. It is how we connect to them and their past as the past slowly fades from their stories.
In my mind, few other entities embody the spirit of shaping our world like NASA. They are the epitome of adventure and exploration. It is my pleasure to make life worthwhile for some one who was mission control. After all, he helped make life worthwhile for me. I consider it a great honor to be the person who listens to the stories of these great men and women.
Nurses are supposed to be the unsung heroes providing care, quietly doing whatever is necessary. Nurses have always kept the secrets of our society, keeping level heads in crisis.
One of the biggest secrets is that Alzheimer’s is not tragic all the time. There is laughter, there is love. And I’m tired of being an unsung hero. I want to be a loud, boisterous, unconventional hero that sings terribly and off-key. I want you to hear my voice about Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
If you have Alzheimer’s, you have permission to be happy. If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s you have permission and a right to feel joy. Quit letting society tell us we are unsung. Raise your voice with Nurse Bitterpill in shattering the stigma of Dementia. There will be tragic moments. But the joy can easily outweigh them if you stay open to allowing them in.
I have a plan. I will be making a lot of noise. Make noise with me.
Nurse Bitterpill is in the process of publishing a book, Every Minute is a New Day. It is a long process (longer and more involved than I had anticipated). And an avenue to be vocal on behalf of my beautiful and joyous Alzheimer’s patients. It will not happen instantly. I do not have the luxury of cloistering myself away for six months without distraction to focus fully on writing. I am elbow deep in the real world of dementia every single day. In the trenches making life better for those suffering and have the audacity to be happy about it.
I don’t want to stop at just writing a book. I want to keep raising my voice with film, education, mentorships, and other forms of media to get the word out that we can still smile, laugh, and live after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. With a new business on the horizon, I plan on making everyone hear what I have to say even if means standing on street corners shouting to passersby that people with Alzheimer’s have a right to be happy. I am not fearless, I am determined. But if we all join together, we will be heard.
“Hope is a force as fragile as it is enduring. Hope and fear are forever entwined, not always on opposite sides of the spectrum. Hope can fuel fear and fear can fuel hope.” -Every Minute is A New Day.
17 days left to help fund the book.
Tell your friends, tell you mom. Let’s make this happen. Be a part of this message of hope.
Click here to help fund the book. As little as the cost of a latte can help.
Happy new year.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My book Every Minute is a New Day has a crowdfunding page on Kickstarter. Please help spread the word and/or help fund this project. You all have my deepest appreciation. Visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fuzzylizzard/every-minute-is-a-new-day and read about the project
Dear Beautiful Readers,
I would like to take a moment to announce that Nurse Bitterpill is in the process of publishing a book based on this blog. It will focus on the language of Dementia. Stay tuned for more information as this process unfolds.
Thank you all so much for the constant love and support you have given over the years. My hope is that this book will help families, friends, nurses, caregivers, doctors, and everyone better communicate with those affected by the many forms of Dementia.
Please feel free to submit quotes and/or stories about Dementia to NurseBitterpill@gmail.com and I will submit them on the blog.
A Short Story inspired by a few of the women I cared for.
The Cat’s Meow
By Amy Moloney
Lilly loved to dance. She would spend her days swaying to the rhythm in her mind. When she was not dancing, she would care for her neighbors. That is after she finds the cat meowing for his dinner. The old folks around her were always in need of assistance. Lilly felt it was up to her to help.
When she heard the baby crying she would spend hours holding the child in her arms. Lilly took great care to make the sure the child felt loved completely. But again the cat would meow to be let into the house. Where is that cat, she wonders.
Somehow the doors are all locked. The cat continues to meow. Oh well, Lilly thinks, after dinner the cat can come in. After the meal arrives she helps the nice young girls with the dishes until all of the tables are clean as a whistle. Then when everyone was settling down for the night Lilly helps tuck them in. She hears that cat meowing again. Maybe he needs some milk, she concludes to herself.
There he is all curled up in the corner, Lilly notices. She continues thinking about what a sweet cat he is.
“Lilly,” she hears someone calling for her. “Lilly, it is time for bed.”
Oh, so soon? Lilly thinks to herself about how she just got started on the day. She hasn’t even found the cat yet. He keeps meowing to come inside. “I’m not tired, dear. Can I make you a nice cup of tea? We can sit and play with the cat for a while.” Lilly motions for the young girl to sit beside her.
The young girl smiles at Lilly and agrees to sit with her. Lilly hears the cat scratching at the door again. “Do you hear the cat scratching to get in?” Lilly asks the girl.
“No Lilly, I don’t. Do you want me to go check for you?” She asks politely.
“Thank you, dear. I think the cat may be getting cold, being outside for so long. Oh my, I hear the baby crying again. Do you mind if I go check on her? She is probably hungry.”
The young girl walks with Lilly to her bedroom. Lilly finds herself feeling tired. But she cannot quite remember why she should be so sleepy. There is so much work to do. Feeling tired just is not an option in Lilly’s mind.
She asks the young girl with her, “Dear, what time is it? Should I feed the cat? It must be early. The sun isn’t out yet. Is my husband home from his fishing trip?” Lilly feels a little foolish for not knowing. She has been working so hard lately with the babies and has the farm to care for. Lilly rationalizes that the stress is making her a bit forgetful. There is so much on her mind; sleep will have to wait until later.
Lilly lies down on the bed that the nice girl turned down for her. Lilly decides to indulge the girl and sit there quietly for a little while. The girl promised to watch after the babies while she napped. Such a sweet young lady, Lilly thought.
Lilly closes her eyes for a moment like the young lady asked her to do. There goes that cat again. Why is that silly old cat meowing so loudly, Lilly continued to ponder. Lilly wants to get up again to check on the cat. But her eyes are so heavy. Oh, the cat will be fine outside for one night. If only the cat would quit crying, she could let herself fall asleep. It must be morning by now. The cat has been outside all night. Lilly tries to get up to check but a sweet young woman encourages her to relax in bed for a while longer.
Lilly falls asleep as the nurse turns out the lights.
The nurse smiles and walks out of the room knowing that Lilly will have the same day tomorrow as she had today, hopefully with a bit more dancing.
So is life inside the world of Alzheimer’s.
*This is a fictional story of a woman with Alzheimer’s.
This post has taken me a week to write because it is such an emotional transition in my life. I am sorry if it seems disconnected and rambling, as I am typing this with a quivering lip and watery eyes. I am also going to cross post this to my personal blog, amymoloney.com.
“You’ll make it wherever you go because you can make people smile.” –One of my favorite patients when she heard I was moving to Texas. What breaks my heart is that she will not remember that she and I used to dance around the dining room like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire while I sang made-up songs to her on nights she could not sleep.
It is with a heavy heart that I tell my patients that I will be leaving them. Most will not remember I told them by the time tomorrow comes. Other will not remember I was even their nurse after I’ve gone. But a few will know, will feel my absence even if they are not exactly sure what it is that is missing.
Nurse Bitterpill is not just a character I created; she is a vital part of my life. She is me. We are a symbiotic force that takes great pride in the healing we bring to our residents. She is a part of the fabric of my soul. These crazy, beautiful demented old folks have become my children. I protect them as I would a child. Some of my co-workers even refer to me as Mother Hen. And I am.
I have had a lot of people comment on my nursing style, mostly because I always put my patients first, which seems to be a rare thing to be able to do these days. They are humans not diseases. They are faces not insurance policies.
I was once called the Patch Adams of nurses. Which is one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. And tonight one of my nurse’s aides told me that when she enrolled in nursing school she didn’t know what to expect. The other nurses she worked with scared her to the point that she about to change her mind. Then when she started working with me she continued with her plan of becoming a nurse. She told me it was because she saw how I treated my patients; how I showed her what kind of nurse she would want to be. I am practically in tears to know that it was my actions that inspired someone. Not just my words, but the observation of how Nurse Bitterpill cares for her children.
I have spent a lot of my recent days thinking about what it takes to do what I do. I fully comprehend that not many people on this big rock could do it. Each moment of my work day is different. Nurse is only a small part of what it is that happens on the job.
These are a few of the things that you need to embody to be able to be an Alzheimer’s nurse:
- Therapeutic Liar
- Improvisational Actor
- Accidental Acrobat
- Ballroom Dancer
- Hostage Negotiator
- Secret Agent
- Midwife (usually for invisible babies)
- Prison Guard
- Cafeteria Lady
- Wild Animal Wrangler
There was a whole lot I was going to write about, but it seems that I am having trouble putting it all into words. Thank you all for supporting Nurse Bitterpill and the Alzheimer’s quotes. I have every intention to continue the blog. I have a stockpile of quotes that have not been uploaded as of yet. And I would also like to invite you to submit quotes and stories for me to post. It would be nice to make Nurse Bitterpill an interactive site where we can exchange stories and hope.
I would also like to announce that I plan on working towards turning the Alzheimer’s blog into a book.
“Tomorrow is a state of mind. And around here you can have up to 300 tomorrows in one night.” –Nurse Bitterpill
Patient: “I had a terrible dream. I didn’t know anybody. Is there something wrong with me?”
Nurse: “I’m here to help you remember.”
Patient: “That’s good. I don’t like this dream.”
Nurse: “I’m your nurse dreamcatcher. I will take those bad dreams away and throw them into the sun.”
Patient: “This dream is getting better already.”
“Your kiss made the worry fly away.”
“I’d wait for weeks to have you bring my medicine with that smile.”
“You’re the first nurse since I got here that shows any personality.” -he said to me in a very relieved voice.
Nurse: “I have some apple juice for you.”
Nurse: “I’m even going to lie to you and tell you I grew the apples myself.”
Patient: “Are you an apple tree?”
Nurse: “Only in my spare time.”
“Sometimes the business of medicine gets in the way of the process of nursing. During these times, I remember the moments when a patient smiled just because I was holding their hand. And it all seems worthwhile.”