Friday, September 14, 2007

My Week at Hospice

One of my patients I visit is an 87 year old woman with dementia who is such a hoot. (Let's call her Maxine.) Each time I visit, Maxine asks me if I have kids and when I answer "yes, I have a six year old son and a three year old daughter," she responds, "How can you have a six year old when you can't be older than nineteen!" I love Maxine.

In my past visits she might have forgotten my name, but she always knew me as the chaplain. Yesterday she didn't, and I am beginning to see signs of decline. However, she still was her hilarious self this day and, of course, we had the above mentioned conversation. Yesterday, however, she took a look at my big belly and the following conversation took place:

Maxine: Are you pregnant?

Me: No, are you?

Maxine: (laughs out loud) Oh dear, not me! I just saw your stomach and thought you were pregnant.

Me: No, I just have a big belly and I need to have some surgery to fix something in there.

(pause)

Maxine: Can you still have sex?

[end scene]
Today I officiated the funeral of "Percy," a 76 year old man who died with Alzheimer's. Percy was a golden gloves boxer who once fought Floyd Patterson at Madison Square Garden before Patterson became the world heavyweight champ. It was only one of two fights that Percy ever lost.
Percy was extremely difficult to handle, especially at night when the "Sundown Syndrome" would really kick-in. His behavior turned destructive, such as tearing the drapes off the wall and pulling the upholstery off the furniture. Last week, he took a terrible fall and broke his head open. It is hard to believe, but his behaviors got even worse. The nurse told me that oftentimes with Alzheimer's patients, wild behavior is indicative of pain. So, it was decided that he needed to be given some serious pain medication and, not too surprisingly, when his body was free from pain and was able to relax, he died a few days later.
Percy was not connected to any faith community in his adulthood and I am told by his wife that, as far as she knew, he never talked about spiritual matters. However, the last time I saw him alive he looked at me and said, "Pray for me." Four days later, he died. I wonder just how God was communicating to him in those last days.
All in all, a good week.

7 comments:

more cows than people said...

wow. great stories.

wow.

thanks.

Cathy said...

Yes, great stories - and I think everyone should have a Maxine in their life to make them laugh :)

Cecilia said...

These are some of the greatest moments in ministry, aren't they? It sounds as if you are truly bringing the love of God to these folks.

Pax, C.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

oh Iris your days are so full of the tough stuff but so very holy...

treat yourself to something snazzy! I got my blouse at Dillard's and if you visit www.dillards.com - do a search for "J.R. Nites" ...kinda formal wedding-ish clothes but anything in organza fabric is sooo cool!

My husband is singing hymns & doing the dishes right now... mmmm? this is a sign of something I know it! :)

Towanda said...

what do you mean, end of scene? You didn't answer her question?

;-)

And PS, alzheimer's sucks, big time. But I'm glad he found some peace.

Grace thing said...

wow. love Maxine.

MayB MayB Not said...

Great stories, I too love Maxine ... and like Towanda, remind you that you didn't answer her question! -:) Serena