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Marathon Man revisited

January 24, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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In early December I wrote about a new resident, a 59-year-old with dementia, whom I called Marathon Man because of his life history as a runner. I thought an update was in order. Marathon Man now resides in a room at the front of the building. I do not think he has any idea that it is his room. It was clear to me and most of the staff that he has probably never been in a facility before, and it did take him some time to get used to what goes on in one. His wife does visit faithfully and he seems calmer when she is here.

He still wanders in and out of rooms but seems to realize when he’s somewhere unfamiliar. Perhaps it is because other residents get upset with him when he gets into their things. If he comes into my room now, he usually makes a quick retreat out the door.

Obviously, Marathon Man spends a lot of his days walking the halls. If the staff knows he has walked all night and most of the day before, they do not wake him for breakfast. It does tug at my heart because sometimes he looks very tired.

Marathon Man used to be a teacher and seems to be happiest when he has papers to look at or to put in his hands. He carries on conversations with no one in particular. I think he was probably a low-key guy and he does not seem to understand why others get so upset when he is not where he is supposed to be.

He has had difficulty remaining in his seat long enough in the regular dining room to eat. Even though Marathon Man has dementia, he is not happy when his tray does not arrive promptly. If the aides do not keep an eye on him, he will get up and leave. Marathon Man now eats in a separate dining room where the aides feed residents and where they are better able to keep him at the table long enough. Despite this regular eating routine, the constant walking has caused him to lose weight. His hip bones are prominent.

The disease process has caused him to hold his head down. Some days it is very difficult to feed him and give him medicine. But I think there is enough intelligence left in him that he knows this is a place where he is being cared for.

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So sad. So much energy and he has no idea how to use it. We had an active resident who was used to running and walking miles. We (nurses and his family) took turns on our breaks etc walking with him around the building and at a park near by. Putting limit on any (demented or not) resident in a LTC facility is wrong and cruel. It is hard enough adjusting to the rules and time limits that are places.
Maybe you could put a stop sign or other note on your door to keep him out (if he still reads) or they should put his name or picture on his door?

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

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