I started taking core nursing classes at 20. Previously I had been taking business courses. My father thought a career in business would be fantastic for me but I was terribly bored with the course work. Then I started to entertain nursing. I had no idea what nursing involved but I loved the science classes. I got married and nursing school was on hold. My husband at the time and I moved four times in three years and then I got pregnant. If we landed in a place long enough to squeeze in some classes I would. I took classes at night and during my maternity leave. Finally after 5 years I returned to school full time and enrolled in a nursing program in Sioux City, Iowa.
Iowans are tough. I think it must be the cold winters and heritage of farm, work ethics. The school was hard core, weeding out many students within the first month. By the third week of school we were doing clinicals in a nursing home. It was our first taste of real life aging. When my preceptorship rolled around I went back to the same nursing home and worked in the memory care unit. It was so fascinating. There was a couple who thought they were husband and wife. They would reminisce and since neither of them knew any different they believed they owned the memories and moments from the past as husband and wife. There was also this little man who really liked me. He came right up and grabbed my hand. It was then I remembered he had broken the finger of a nurse not only two nights before because she tried to free herself from his grasp! He held my hand and we walked and walked. A demented woman came up to us and started yelling at the gentleman and me. She slapped me three times across the face before I could blink! He continued to hold my hand but with his free hand punched her in the face. She then went after him. It was shocking! One of my instructors was in the unit at the time and I asked her for help. She said sorry kiddo you are on your own and left. Finally a nurses aide came along and took the woman away to her room. I turned to the gentleman and thanked him profusely for "saving me" and gave him a big hug. It was at this moment he let go of my hand and in that moment I realized folks with dementia will often times go along with what feels natural. The hug felt natural and familiar and he felt "ok" to let go. I went home feeling a sense of relief and I knew I had learned a lesson.