...I had a 91 year old female patient with dementia who could NOT be contained. She paced the halls with her walker frequently and the staff constantly had to watch to make sure she didn't elope from the facility. I am pretty green on the acute care scene, but my years of long term care experience before nursing school have given me plenty of tools to deal with such patients and I was not bothered by her at all. She had sort of a gruff manner about her--one tough little cookie, and I liked her immediately.
ALL day for two days this little woman would go up to staff members and say, "Can you hear that baby crying? Where is he? I'm on my way to get him, but I can't find him. Can't you hear that? Are they hurting him? He's REALLY crying..." There was, of course, no baby at all in the entire hospital. She would get increasingly agitated as the day wore on and the baby's crying continued in her head. We were able to redirect her for a few minutes or so, but then there she was again, asking for that baby. For anyone not familiar with dementia patients...you just go with the flow as much as you can with these people. You don't remind her that her mother is dead if she asks. You don't argue with her if she says it's 1954. So...basically I lied to this woman all day. This little part of me would cringe on the inside. I'd say, "Oh, the baby is just finishing his shots. He's ok. Can I show you to the waiting room?" She would allow me to take her back to her room, get her something to drink. But a few minutes later she'd be back. Looking for that baby.
An aide found a doll somewhere and tried to give her "baby" back to her. She looked right at the aide and said, "That's a doll. I'm looking for my baby."
I commented to another nurse how terrible that must feel for this poor lady. I mean, if you are a mother you know you can't get to your baby fast enough when you hear that cry. The pain cry is different than the tired cry, the hungry cry. The pain cry makes you scramble. It couldn't be a nice feeling to be unable to locate the baby when you know he needs you.
It wasn't until the end of my second shift that this woman's daughter came to check in on her mother. When I told her about the woman's constant requests for the baby, the daughter stopped short. "A baby boy?" she asked. "Yes, always" I replied.
I teared up when she told me the woman had long ago lost her youngest child, her only baby boy in a family of girls, a month after he was born. Every time she asked for her baby over the next three days, I would take her hand, look her in the eye and say, "He's ok. I promise." Because, what else can you say?