COVID-stories: the community nurse.
At the beginning of the lock-down period, the day care centres for people with dementia were closed overnight. This had a massive impact on people themselves and also on their family members and professional (home) carers. All of a sudden, people with dementia spend all their time at home. Friends and family were asked to stay away and even family carers were reluctant to visit. Throught radio and tv people would pick up news about closed schools and shops, empty shelves in supermarkets, hospitals full of sick and deceased people… “Nurse, are we living in war time again?” I was asked frequently. It reminded them of World War 2.
During those first few weeks, my job as a community nurse (team dementia & psychiatry) was mainly to repeat that we were not living in war times, but that a contagious virus was going around the world and for that reason people were asked to stay home. I tried to keep everyone up-to-date, but at the same time tried to focus on more positive news from our immediate environment. For example, we would admire the tulips at the Keukenhof (a famous flower park in the Netherlands) through a youtube movie. And in the local news paper, we read about an escaped parrot, who had to be captured by firemen. In this way, I hoped to show them that ‘normal’ life was continuing.
Our workload was reduced as some people could not handle living home alone in almost complete isolation and were admitted to nursing homes. There was zero influx of new clients, everything seemed to come to a halt. This freed up time for us, community nurses, and at the same time our clients had more time on their hands as well. We decided that we would visit our remaining clients more frequently. For games or walks, another cup of coffee or sharing lunch.
Sharing food was highly enjoyable. We would spend time in the kitchen, baking pancakes and poffertjes (traditional Dutch mini pancakes). One woman did not remember ‘poffertjes’ until we started cooking. During the cooking process and later the meal, she started to remember more and more… about her mother, about the fun fair and about how she herself would treat her children to poffertjes… and how she decided never to do it again! She found it too much work, spending a full afternoon in the kitchen, covered in mix and her kids would stuff themselves and then complain it was not enough. I enjoyed the revealing of her story while we sat in the garden in the spring sun with our poffertjes covered in boter, sugar and cinnamon.
These times are uncertain, we do not know what will happen. Normal life is slowly returning. Day care centres have opened and we welcome new clients. I am grateful that during these confusing past months, I have been able to assist people with dementia. That we had more time to enjoy shared moments and memories together. But I am even more happy, that they will return to their normal routines, so they reconnect with society and other people and can contribute to our wonderful village life.
I started my career as a nurse at the hospital, where I learned a lot about neurology. During that time I realized that I enjoyed to work with people with cognitive problems. I was able to really make a difference for them. By ‘going with their flow‘ there is so much to discover.