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Tonight in Holly's world

February 8, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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I have written about Holly* previously, the resident with little short-term memory. In fact, I have no idea where Holly thinks she is in her life.

One evening I was reading and heard a squalling sound. It sounded like a scary movie. But when it became consistent and louder, I knew it was Holly. I often wonder what occurs that causes her to cry so hard she can barely breathe. I wonder if sometimes her memory comes back in flashes of her former life, family members and her career as a nurse.

When she is crying not much will quiet her. Some nights the aides take her for a walk allowing her to use up some energy hoping she can relax and sleep. Some nights it works, but some nights it does not.

I’ve read about a woman with a similar memory issue who was being studied at a major university. Two or three days a week she interacted with the University study team. Those who worked with her said her memory improved. I wondered if there would be a similar study anywhere near here for Holly. Interacting with a dedicated team could improve the quality of her life and possibly improve her memory.

One recent evening the aides were walking Holly. Each aide asked Holly what their name was. Then, I heard her say names one right after the other. Although some aides say Holly remembers their names, others say she does not.

Holly's sister visited over the holidays and took her on an outing. Afterwards, I noticed they sounded alike. I thought Holly was younger. But her sister assured me, Holly is the older sister. Since I am the older sister who became disabled, I know how devastating it can be for a younger sister.

The aides get frustrated when Holly continually tries to give other residents her food in the dining room. She will do it over and over, despite being told not to. Holly is so helpful and I can see why she became a nurse. As she says, "I am a nurse. It is what I do."

Holly's frequent questions frustrate the aides. But I have watched her unique interest in people. Sometimes I think she sees something in our faces others do not. She always asks if I need help, even though I use a power chair.

Holly brings out emotion in all of us who observe her. Many of us feel empathy for her and anger at whatever caused her present situation.

I think each of us identifies with Holly. We all wonder what memory loss feels like. One day we could be like Holly, the woman with only interrupted confusion.




Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...