She is sitting silently and rigidly in her wheelchair, staring intently into the hall past the dining room. I am attempting to remember protocols, feeding etiquette - not to call it a bib. And she is staring into the hall. I am wondering how many ml
's in these tiny cups and whether or not the man in the chair next to me ever opens his eyes fully. She sighs audibly and continues to stare.
"Sometimes she feeds herself
. She can do it, when she wants to." She is still staring. I have never fed anyone older than a four or five year old but I assume this can't be much different. The thought is comforting and overwhelmingly sad all at once. I want to know who she used to be
and how cognitively impaired she really is but there was no time to read through the chart. I know this is irrelevant to everyone around me but I want to know who loves her, even now: before I try to make her eat some unpleasant looking muck
I hate to ask the staff questions about her while she sits there beside me. I decide to ask her if she'd like some juice and there is nothing. She continues to stare. I wonder if she can hear me, as I pick up the small plastic cup.
"Would you like some juice?", a little louder. A small nod. Her hands feel stiff and cold as I gently slip the cup into her fingers. She sighs. Not today, it seems. So I hold the cup to her lips and she sips tiny amounts - at least the orange juice smells sweet and delicious. I can't say the same for the thickened fluids
at the other table settings.
The food seems more challenging without any prior knowledge of her eating habits or preferences. Once again I wish I had time to read through the chart
beforehand. Unfortunately, my first day as a nursing student does not seem particularly focussed on documentation or protocol. I get the impression I am supposed to be concerned with feeding these people and shuffling them back to their rooms as quickly as possible. I just want to know that someone loves her.
The soup looks so standard with alphabet noodles
and pieces of carrot and potato. I always hated standard vegetable soup. Apparently she needs to eat this, I'm told, or it will mean she has missed 25% of her intake for the lunch hour. I offer her a teaspoon and she keeps her lips closed, sighs. "You don't want any soup, do you?". Nothing. I wonder if the bite was too big or if I am doing something wrong. After all, what do I know about anything? The videos made it look so simple and casual. I offer her a smaller bite and she says "No". I like words, I know words. The staff tell me I need to try to convince her to eat some more of the soup and I wonder why as there are several other ministry dictated foods to consume and maybe the soup with its alphabet letters is demeaning. I regroup and ask quietly, "Would you like to try a little soup?"
She looks directly at me for the first time and says in a soft, steady tone: "What did I say? I said No."
I smile at her and slide the soup away. Of course you said no, and you are still in there somewhere. Stupid alphabet noodles.
She goes back to staring into the hall and I wonder who she used to be