Is a Resident with a Remote IN Control?
After visiting a nursing home resident who used to sit with my late father for their meals, I walked over to the nurses’ station.
As the staff and I updated one another about our activities, a resident walked over and stood by my side. She didn’t say a word. I turned to look at her and noticed a remote control in her hand. How did she get it? Are others in the activity room looking for it?
Trying to find a way to connect, I said, “You must be in charge here.”
“No, I’m not,” she said. She didn’t look at me. Instead, she kept her gaze on the nursing staff.
“You sure?” I asked. “You’ve got the remote. That means you’re in control.”
Turning in my direction, she said, “Nope. Not in control.”
For a moment I doubted that she was a resident. She responded clearly even though we were in the section reserved for people with advanced-stage Alzheimer’s. I paused, debating whether or not I should offer a teasing remark. The staff were watching the two of us.
“Oh, you must be the supervisor, then.” I clarified. The staff members smiled.
“No, I’m not!” she insisted.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She must be a higher ranking individual. “Are you the manager?”
“If I were, I’d change things around here!” she said, sizing me up with her eyes.
If I were in charge – Lobster and…
Uh-oh, what have I started? Figuring the staff may not want to hear what came next, I winked at them before asking, “Oh? What would YOU change?”
“I’d fire the cook!”
The staff breathed a sigh of relief and chuckled. They were not at fault this time.
No answer. Oops, that question was too open-ended. Perhaps she didn’t understand.
“Because they don’t serve lobster and caviar?” I prompted. I often teased the cook, administrator, and nursing staff about upping the menu with lobster and caviar. While residents waited for their food to be served, some would ask what they were getting. I’d answer, “LOBSTER and CAVIAR!” Surprisingly, depsite most of the residents living with some form of dementia, they knew better and laughed.
She looked at me again, “Lobster… ”
“…and caviar?” I prompted.
She knows what she wants.
“Lobster,” she repeated and paused. “Lobster and… hot dogs.”
“Lobster and hot dogs?” I asked in surprise.
“Yes, lobster and hot dogs,” she repeated with certainty.
“I’ll talk with the cook immediately and make sure these changes are made,” I said. “May I borrow the remote?”
Feeling satisfied, she handed me the remote and walked away.
I handed the remote to the staff who thanked me and added, “Good luck with the menu!”
Adapted from “Lobster and Hotdogs” in Finding the JOY in Alzheimer’s – When Tears are Dried with Laughter, pages 45-46.