FOR 2 DAYS, the nursing staff had a tough time getting spunky 92-year-old Anne calmed down enough to stop yelling, let alone sleep. Barely taking a breath, she'd repeatedly screamed "Nurse!! Help me!! Please!!"
On the second evening, I was assigned to care for her. I introduced myself and asked, "What can I do for you, Anne?" She looked bewildered and couldn't tell me what she needed. I gave her a handheld radio and suggested she listen to music. She seemed content, so I left to attend to another patient.
A few minutes later, Anne resumed her screaming and I immediately went back to her room. She was climbing out of bed with her I.V. line stretched to the limit. Again she looked confused. I got her settled down again and told her I'd return to check on her.
Around bedtime, Anne began screaming again. I helped her to the bathroom, where she used the facilities and washed her hands and face. I applied lotion to her back and ran a comb through her silver hair. She brushed her teeth, then started to cry. Before I could say a word, her little arms were around my waist for a hug. Then, pulling me by the collar, she planted a kiss on my cheek. "Thank you," she said. My eyes began to tear.
That precious moment left me speechless. I gently guided Anne back to bed and tucked her in, even though I didn't expect her to stay put.
To my delight, I was able to finish medication rounds without having to check on her. When I was through, I peeked into her room and saw her fast asleep, looking peaceful with a little smile on her lips. Wow. What an achievement, especially after 2 days of failed attempts to calm her down!!
Anne's hug and kiss made me feel special, as if I'd done something marvelous for her, when in truth I hadn't.
This experience encouraged me to find ways to make even the most combative or confused patient as comfortable as possible, even when her behavior frustrates me. Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest difference.