Following my resignation informing management, I realized the residents would need to know that I was leaving. The dementia floor or lockdown as everyone referred to it, would be easier to inform than the cognitively alert residents, or so I thought. I began my last two weeks conducting more one to one visits than group programs. I felt the residents deserved my undivided attention. I was breaking inside as each day went by. Some of the cognitively alert were happy for me; they repeatedly told me that I was too good for this ‘place’. Others were sad and wanted to know what they could do to make me stay. I tried to explain that the position I was taking was a learning experience and would only make me better in the field of recreation. I said out loud that maybe one day we would meet up again, although I knew deep inside that I could never go back, which broke my heart. I had developed personal relationships with each and every resident, I knew their inner most secrets, I empathized with their loneliness, I held their hands, wiped their tears, and felt I was part of their family. I had developed relationships over the few months I had worked at the facility, which normally would take years had I worked in another field of practice. I had fought for their rights even though they never knew I had. When it came to the old saying, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, I documented all I saw good and bad. I constantly reminded the residents about the ‘Resident Bill of Rights’ and spoke about their role in making sure that their rights were upheld! I had been fully present for resident palliative and resident end of life within the home. I had cared for all the pets within the home and developed an attachment to them also. I had used the pets as therapy for agitated Alzheimer residents, which turned out to be very successful. In retrospect, I now realized all in the home had accepted me immediately. Although, I had feelings at the time I was letting everyone down, I knew that I had made the right decision.
My final day was spent hugging and visiting every single resident. My cohort along with the residents purchased a cake, flowers, and card for my goodbye party. I never expected any of the hoopla, as I should point out that I had only worked at this facility for little over 3 months. I tried to keep it together, but it was difficult. During my time working at the facility I had lost my Mom to Alzheimer’s disease and during my sadness the residents and I had formed a special connection.
With goodbyes and hugs finished, I exited the door with my flowers and card, alone. I walked directly to my vehicle, opened the door, and opened the floodgates. Yes, I was sad, yes I had peeled back the layers within each resident and myself, and yes I felt alone, but I had taken the new position for a reason, and I was going to make sure that I learned all I could about seniors, specifically those in the long-term care.
I left with mixed emotions, but a better understanding of the ‘system’ and how individuals are treated in the institution called, long-term care.