15 July 2015

Comrades in care

My name is Margaret and I moved to Arcare Burnside on April 7th 2014. I was diagnosed in March 1996 with Motor Neurone Disease a devastating diagnoses but little did I know back then that I would still be living in 2015. Most people diagnosed with MND only survive from between 3 to 5 years or even less. I have the slower developing form of MND. My voice was affected first and I now communicate via an electronic LIGHTWRITER. Without this device I am lost and cannot communicate with people. I am now also confined to a motorised wheelchair. My husband Peter had cared for me for the past 18 years until April 7th 2014. I could see the difficulties Peter was having caring for me and I didn’t want to be the cause of his downfall health wise or to face our children telling me it was time to go into care. So I surprised them all and made the decision to come to an aged care facility. Being only 68 years of age it wasn’t an easy choice but deep down I knew it was what I needed to do as I didn’t want to be forced into a rushed decision. Our home is less than 5 minutes away from here so I get to go home often for the day and the occasional overnight stays.

Over the months, I have jumped many mental hurdles and am quite content to have found a lovely second home. I consider myself extremely lucky to be still alive and have all my mental faculties still intact. One day, towards the end of winter a young carer named Claudia came into my room for some one on one time. During that time, I told her about how I used to work as a nurse and showed her photos of myself as a young Nurse. Claudia then said to me, “Oh you should go up and meet Fay upstairs. You will like her and she will enjoy your company as she was also a Nurse”. After Claudia left, I thought to myself, “What if Fay doesn’t want to meet me and will she understand how I communicate via the Lightwriter. What about chatting to a person in a wheelchair?” All of these silly thoughts raced through my mind but as time went by I eventually plucked up the courage to go up with Claudia to meet Fay. What a surprise I got when she accepted me immediately and the Lightwriter was not a problem for her. Fay told me where she had worked and how the Arthritis was so painful for her to cope with. She also mentioned her family and her Great Granddaughter and to see her face light up when she spoke of them was a joy to see. Despite being bed ridden Fay is never idle and keeps herself very busy reading, knitting and doing crosswords etc. She has brightened my life and days here immensely. I can tell by chatting with her she was a good caring Nurse and Mother. I thank God for my experiences in Nursing and caring for aged people. When I go up to visit I let Fay maintain the conversation and I just go along with whatever she says. We have comforted each other during sad conversations which are not too frequent and we really understand each other. One day, Fay said her hands were very sore so I asked if I could massage her hands, she said, “Yes.” I massaged her hands until she dozed off to sleep. It made me feel so good that I could still give comfort to an elderly person and to know that I still had the “MAGIC TOUCH” so to speak. Now when I visit and begin to massage her hands she says to me, “Now don’t think I am going to sleep while you are here. ” Then we both have a giggle. During our chats Fay uses expressions I haven’t heard since the 1950s and 1960s, reminds me of my Granny and her sisters.

Fay loves Liquorice and small shortbreads which I take up every so often. Fay is a keen knitter and last week between the two of us we held a simple conversation while taking turns at rolling the wool from a huge ball to a smaller ball that Fay had started. These simple activities help to keep her hands active. While I was rolling the wool she said to me, “You are an Alcoholic’ I I II” I think she meant to say workaholic. Not to worry we both just laughed. Another day, Fay got talking about how she used to play Lawn Bowls and the social side of competing, then she said she wanted me to have a game with her. How sweet she is, God bless her. When I go to leave she says to me (like a mother to a child) “Now you be careful at the lights and make sure you ring me when you get home”. What a GEM she is. I tell the carers to go tell her that I have arrived back home safely so she won’t worry. I just wish I was fit enough to visit her more. My dearest wish is for the both of us to sit out in Cafe Garden and enjoy a Coffee one day. I could go on for quite a while about our chats but I won’t. Fay is a hidden Treasure. To look at her aged hands and wonder how she cared for people gives me strength and hope to continue to live my life. If I can cheer up and brighten an elderly persons days I feel satisfied that I still have much to offer and haven’t lost my caring duties. As we travel down the road of life’s journey we get many surprise meetings with loveable strangers and friendships formed a precious jewel that MONEY cannot buy.

To be a nurse is a lifelong career and means to be drawn into society.

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