Most Memorable patient: living with Alzheimer’s

I worked and volunteered in a nursing care and rehabilitation facility for nine years, and in that time, I met people from all walks of life with different perspectives and passions. I’ve spent time with a Holocaust survivor, patients whose families have abandoned them, and patients whose families were almost always there. However, a patient who immediately comes to mind when I think of that place is B. She was a petite sweetheart with white hair, bright blue eyes, and a smile that could light up the room. She was admitted with her husband, who was a solemn man with a serious face, and who made it clear he wasn’t happy with being left by his family in a nursing home.

B was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a couple of months after being admitted to our facility. Our facility was divided into six units, A through F. A through D consisted of functioning residents, E was a locked down unit for patients with Alzheimer’s, and F was for patients with other forms of dementia who were incapable of functioning in any capacity short of breathing on their own. Because of her diagnosis, as well as her tendency to stand up and wander, B had to be moved to the Alzheimer’s Ward, the locked-down E Unit. Unfortunately, her husband wasn’t allowed to join her, because he didn’t have Alzheimer’s – he was alert, oriented, and had a mind like a steel trap. The day the CNAs came to take B right down the hall through the locked door, B’s husband showed the most emotion he had ever shown since entering the facility. His face was contorted with rage, frustration, and devastation; he screamed and cried for fifteen minutes as they tried pulling B away from his hug, and he sobbed nonstop for a full hour after she left. I remember B kept patting his shoulder and telling him it would be ok, and that she would be back to visit him.

B did visit him once a week after that, but within three months—only three months after being separated from each other for the first time since their marriage five decades prior—her husband’s memory deteriorated to the point where he didn’t even recognize his own wife anymore, and he passed away not long after. B’s Alzheimer’s had progressed so much that her husband’s death didn’t affect her, and her blue eyes and bright smile stayed as genuine as ever. She loved to dance when people would come to greet her; depending on her mood, she’d sway with you, bounce in front of you, or wave her arms around and just laugh with you.

The memory I remember most vividly was about a year before B’s passing. When B came up to my coworker, S, she patted her belly, and asked if she was pregnant; S looked stunned and laughed, saying no. S had a pretty flat stomach, so we both asked B why she thought S was pregnant. B replied with a bounce in each word, “Because…because because they go boop! And out the baby goes!” and she ran away laughing. The next day, S came into work, saying, “I took a pregnancy test because of what B said…she was right, I am pregnant.”

Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs you of your memory, and eventually your life. However, the way this one person with such an illness impacted those around her, even though she wasn’t fully aware of how much it did, is what makes B the most memorable patient I’ve ever had.

Author: Yuna
Kent State University School of Podiatric Medicine
Class of 2020


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