I got an SOS from two Mansion aides today, they thought Jean was slipping into a depression, they were worried about her. They asked if I had any ideas about lifting her up. I did.
It is not simple living in assisted care even in the best of times. For many of the Mansion residents, these are not the best of times. The Danforth Care Center graciously agreed to take in the displaced Mansion residents until repairs are finished there.
But they are especially fragile, and this is one of the worst things that can happen to them.
It has been very hard of them, one of the most difficult things for the advanced elderly to endure is to be pulled from safe environments in a hurried way and thrust into a strange environment. Each one has been affected in their own way, many have gotten colds or brief fevers, others are simply confused or depressed, they want to go where it is familiar. They want to go back to the Mansion.
The staff and the Army of Good have thrown themselves into this breach, we have built a temporary activity room filled with books and puzzles and gotten a DVD player and some movies to relieve the boredom and disorientation. Julie Smith as been coming to the Danforth every day to read to the residents and talk to them.
So have Red and I, and Maria has come on several visits as well. I asked the aides some questions about Jean, a called a psychologist who specializes in elder care, I talked to Maria and the aides and sorted through my own experiences in hospice and assisted care work.
I came up with the idea of giving Jean a second comfort baby doll, she loves the first one so much, I thought it might lift her up, jar her out of a deepening funk.
I got her some diapers and clothes for the new doll. Maria and I went to Wal-Mart after lunch to buy the baby doll, we found a good-sized one, somewhat similar to the comfort doll I got her six months, ago, she was the first resident in the Mansion to get one.
The danger of the comfort dolls is that the residents can become too deeply attached to them, and worry about them so much they forget to be active and take care of themselves. Jean is already reluctant to leave her comfort doll in her room, but the doll has given her so much pleasure and purpose everyone involved believes it has been valuable to her.
We brought the doll to Jean around 2 p.m., and the change in her was dramatic. She smiled, talked, even joked with me and Maria. She laughed when she saw the doll and instantly agreed to get up (for the first time in a day) and go outside of her room and show her new baby to the other Mansion residents who were gathered in the Activity Room/Chapel that has been set up for them.
Jean sat down with both babies in her arm while eating a popsicle given her as a treat. She was animated, happy, the aides were relieved, she had come up out of the darkness. The baby doll did the trick, it gave her purpose and focus, something to nurture and love.
I talked about the baby doll with the Mansion staff, and we all agreed that I should take the new baby home with me and bring it to Jean on my visits to the Mansion. Let her get used to it gradually, and not have the chance to focus on it too much.
They were worried about the responsibility and worry she would feel for two baby dolls, we all thought it best to move cautiously and deliberately. I told Jean I wanted to take the baby and care for her while she was at the Danforth, and she nodded, and said that was a good idea, and hugged the baby – she named it “Honey” – and kissed it goodbye.
She looked so much better, we told her she would be returning to the Mansion soon, and she said that a good thing. “I feel much better today than I did yesterday, ” she said.
I felt good to hear that. The work at the Mansion is proceeding rapidly. It is hoped that some of the residents will be able to come back on Friday, or possibly Monday.
The residents are very happy to hear it. I pray for them to get home, it has been a difficult time for them, and for the people who care for them, and for their families.
This tender work is precious to me, and to Maria. It is somewhere between therapy and medicine, but we can fill some of the holes in their lives. Do good in the real world. Every day. This week has been a trial for the residents and staff, in a curious way, another gift for me. And another chance for the Army Of Good to do Practical Good.
Another chance for the Mansion workers to show their dedication and love.
Next week, a Homecoming Celebration, courtesy of the AOG: Chinese food and music. It will be a joyous event. Jean with have both babies with her for that.