Excerpt from "Walking In Their Shoes"
“The only information that I could obtain was from her admission paperwork sent from the hospital. She was single, lived alone, with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease with paranoia. Her admission paperwork revealed that she had been found by the police wandering on a busy highway, lost, confused, and looking for her home. No one knew how she arrived at the highway since she didn’t own a car couldn’t drive and she herself couldn’t explain. Nevertheless, she was taken to the hospital for evaluation. The hospital evaluation revealed that her cognition was impaired and she could not properly take care of herself. Therefore, after her hospital stay she moved into our facility on the locked unit to prevent her from wandering away.
This small, frail woman displayed her emotions, whether sad, happy, or frightened, through her beautiful brown eyes, and when it came time for me to leave for the day, she asked me, “But what will I do?” as her eyes displayed fright and sadness. I explained to her that I was going home but would return in the morning. Although she was frightened and didn’t want me to leave, I repeatedly assured her that many of my friends (employees) were there to “keep her safe.” All day, I shared her information with staff members and introduced them to her one by one. As I left her room she requested that I close the door because “you know how people are, they come in and steal things.” With a smile, hug and one final assurance that she would be safe, I gently closed her door.
The next morning I was greeted eagerly by the staff, who could not enter Judy’s room. She had barricaded herself and wouldn't let anyone in. This was a new experience for me, to say the least. I gently knocked on her door and told her my name but, she yelled, “Go away!” After about five minutes of speaking through the partially-blocked door and explaining that it was breakfast time, she finally allowed me to enter her dark room. First, she explained she had to move some items away from the door so I could enter. I heard furniture moving but she did not leave much area to enter, so I squeezed in between the stacked items. I was shocked to see a chest of drawers, night stand, and two chairs next to the door, and still partially blocking the entrance. The curtains were pulled tightly closed with a blanket thrown over them. She said that she was afraid because someone had entered her room in the middle of the night, so she moved the furniture to block the door. (By the way, the night-time visitor was a staff member doing rounds). As we talked calmly, I slowly moved the furniture blocking the door against her strong protests, and was amazed that such a frail woman could have moved the heavy chest of drawers. As I assisted her in getting ready for breakfast, I explained that I was concerned that if something bad happened, she would not be able to exit her room in a timely manner and the staff wouldn’t be able to enter. She was not convinced. I reassured her repeatedly of her safety, but I could still see fear in her eyes. She continued barricading her room for the next week. No matter how many times or different approaches I attempted, I was not able to persuade her that she was safe. So I finally devised a plan.”
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