1. Doas, Michelle Dellaria

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During a routine medication pass in a nursing home, I heard an upset male voice yelling, "Get out of my room if you won't listen to me!!" Seconds later, a female voice responded, "I am not fishing paper towels out of the commode." I quickly locked the med cart and walked down the hall toward the angry voices. A nurse's aide exited a room as I approached.


Entering the room, I observed a visibly shaken frail elderly man in a wheelchair. Tears ran down his cheeks, and an empty tissue box sat on the bedside stand. I introduced myself and asked the man why he was so upset. He replied, "Why should I tell you? No one listens."


I asked him his name, and he reluctantly replied, "Joe." I gently asked again what had made him so upset. He looked up and said, "She just wouldn't listen when I asked her to pull the paper towels out of the commode before I went to the bathroom." Indeed, the commode water was clean, but someone had dropped brown paper towels in the bowl. He said he'd offered her a pair of gloves from the box on the wall, and she became angry. That's when the verbal confrontation ensued. He stated that he would not use the commode and was too weak to retrieve the towels.


As Joe passionately told his story, tears began to stream down his cheeks. He accepted the tissue I offered him and wiped the tears away. I asked Joe why removal of the paper towels was important.


His face lit up. "Do you know how much it costs to have a plumber remove those towels once they clog your commode? I do, because I did this kind of work for 50 years!!"


I chimed in, "So you are a retired plumber?"


Joe proudly stated, "Yes, and this kind of carelessness costs money."


In that moment I realized the big picture. I saw this gentleman's sense of pride from his lifelong occupation. I went into the bathroom and removed the paper towels from the commode, then asked if I could help Joe to the bathroom. He looked at me with a slight grin and said, "You removed them, didn't you?"


After returning to his room, I asked Joe to tell me about his work as a plumber. Joe talked about following the footsteps of his father and his grandfather. He indicated that his only son was carrying on the tradition. He said, "Joey would have pulled those paper towels out for me!!"


This interaction reaffirmed why I chose nursing as a profession. So often, the little things mean much to our patients. I was thankful I had heard this interaction and made my way into Joe's room.


As I walked out, I passed the nurse's aide in the hallway. I asked if she had time to discuss a patient. She nodded yes, so I shared the significance of Joe's paper towel issue, highlighting the pride he had taken in the plumbing business. She was uncomfortable because she knew I had heard the argument. I shared that each situation usually has underlying meaning. I acknowledged how demanding her work is and told her sometimes it is better solely to listen and avoid confrontation. To my surprise, she thanked me and said she had never thought about it that way. Throughout the day, as our paths crossed, it was apparent we had made a connection that would serve a positive purpose.


Personal and spiritual reflection about Joe's situation highlights biblical insights. The Apostle Paul remembered how God delivered him from death when he thought it was all over. Then, steeled by his memories, he added that God "will deliver us" again (2 Corinthians 1:10), illustrating that memories can be substantial in one's life and help build spiritual well-being. Individuals with a store of positive memories will be better equipped for tough times. Memories rooted in lifetime experiences and those with a spiritual component build security, as the psalmist testified: "I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them," (Psalm 119:52).


Through this experience, I witnessed the power of reminiscence. Joe's memories were 50 years strong. His reminiscence told me the rest of the story and gave him a sense of value, importance, belonging, power, and peace.