Mrs. L. was a tiny woman who came to live in the nursing home where I worked after her husband couldn’t cope with her Alzheimer’s anymore. When she came in she was walking, but within a few months she was in bed, unable to get out, stand or walk. She was lying in a fetal position most of the time. It was very sad to see her like that, with her husband on the side of the bed most days.
Mrs. L. rapidly deteriorated and eventually she couldn’t do anything herself anymore. She began to bite, scratch and pinch when she was unable to tell us what she wanted. She couldn’t talk anymore, couldn’t find any words. And we thought she didn’t understand us most of the time. I can’t even count the times I had bruises on my arms and hands. A coworker had to walk around with a black eye for a week when Mrs. L. managed to hit her full on the eye.
This particular sunday I was giving Mrs. L. her food. Despite being a tiny woman, she could eat loads and always enjoyed her food. At least, that’s what I thought. On the menu was chicken soup, meatloaf, cooked potatoes with carrots and macaroon pudding. Up until now I’d always told Mrs. L. what I was giving her, but I never ever felt like she understood what I was saying. So I decided I could get away with not telling her.
“Here’s your soup, Mina.” I said while I held the spoon in front of her face. She opened her mouth and the soup went down in no time. The meatloaf followed, as did the carrots. By the time I wanted to give her the pudding Mrs. L. tried to grab the spoon. I gently put her hands under the duvet as I really didn’t want to change the bedding again. I’d already done it that morning when she managed to grab the spoon with porridge while I looked to her roommate for a moment. Mrs. L. got angry and tried to pinch me. I tucked in the duvet so she couldn’t grab my hands or any other part of my body she wanted to grab.
“Open wide, Mina.” I told her. But Mrs. L. kept her mouth shut. I tried again. “Mina, it’s your pudding.” Still nothing. I could see she was getting tired and not only did she keep her mouth shut, her eyes were glazing over as well. I had to get that pudding in fast or else she wouldn’t get any pudding at all. So I tried one last time. “Come on, Mina, you won’t get any if you don’t open your mouth.”
And she did open her mouth. Then it happened…
Mrs. L. took one spoonful of macaroon pudding, opened her eyes and said: “Oh delicious, macaroon pudding.”
From that moment I always told Mrs. L. what I was feeding her. And when I found a portion of macaroon pudding lying around in the fridge I always took time to give her some. Even if it wasn’t time for food.