I arrived to a smile and a room with only one bed. Jim welcomed me in and as I moved toward my usual piece of real estate for our weekly visit, I looked over and saw that his roommate was gone. I mean GONE gone. His bed and possessions seemed to have vanished.
“What happened to your roommate?” I asked.
“Well, that’s too bad. Did he…”
“I mean Gone gone.” Jim interrupted.
Jim’s roommate passes away just a few days earlier. He was only there a few weeks. Neither of us had any idea whether he had dementia or not. He never spoke and was seemingly comatose the last time I was here.
I asked Jim about his former roommate, Raymond, who was still living across the hall.
“He’s in the hospital.”
“They are a little lacking in the details around this place.” Jim reminded me.
“Well, I hope he gets better.”
“Yes, so do I. But, I’ll probably never see him again. Usually, when they leave, they leave for good…you know, die.”
And off we go on another weekly visit with Jim. Some weeks are a lot like this one. Generally negative. I am supposed to be the light of Christ coming to let a little sunshine into the man’s life, but it is hard to ignore the outright darkness sometimes. Jim didn’t seem sad. No, Jim just seemed like Jim.
The sadness was mostly mine. I try not to dwell on this place. It can be hard not to do so. I’ve learned to treat it like the staff. Find humor in certain things and accept what you see and experience as just part of the job. But occasionally I find myself inside as an invisible resident. Because that is what they are. With most having advanced dementia or Alzheimers, they don’t make friends. They likely don’t remember the staff. They just exist….until they leave.
That is why Jim being here can seem so tragic. He’s not an invisible resident. The staff love him because he can love back. For all the hours they spend escorting residents to their rooms because they forgot where it is (which is most of them), they have brief moments with Jim.
I suppose I am just realizing that this place is not unique. Whether the facility is for those with dementia or advanced stages of life, they sit in their rooms and wait. They wait until it is their time to leave. Longing for family to visit, but “understanding” that everyone is so busy these days.
Well, they’re right. We are all too busy.
Run in Peace, Rest in Grace