Nurses experience tremendous grief and loss when patients in their care die. I learned about this from my friend Dorothy Tucker, who worked in nursing homes and on Alzheimer’s wards for 30 years. The following excerpt is from Dorothy’s journal:
Phillip was admitted yesterday. He’s in Lila Mae’s room. It feels like an impostor is in there. He is quiet. He doesn’t have much to say about anything. There are no pictures on his walls and nothing on his dresser. He has nursing home furniture and a nursing home bedspread. It is a blank room inhabited by a blank man.
Lila Mae had pictures and decorations everywhere. She had a lovely floral couch and matching easy chair. Her bed was covered with a gorgeous, colorful, handmade quilt.
Seeing Phillip in there makes me miss Lila Mae even more. Phillip wet his pants. I looked through his dresser and couldn’t find a clean pair He only has three threadbare undershirts.
Lila Mae had beautiful underthings in her drawers It made me mad. I looked at him lying silently in his bed and thought, “Doesn’t anyone care about you enough to get you some respectable clothes?”
I came out of the room fuming. Annie looked at me and said, “What’s got your goat?”
I told her why I was mad and I ragged on and on about how he didn’t belong in Lila Mae’s room.
She reminded me how long it took for Danny’s room to become Danny’s room rather than Claire’s room. She was right. Phillip’s family will bring him some clothes. They’ll bring some pictures and photos, and they’ll fix up his room. Phillip will get more comfortable with us and his new surroundings, and his personality will emerge.
Then it will become Phillip’s room . . . until he leaves and another impostor moves in.
Special thanks to Dorothy for sharing her personal story of grief and loss.