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English 212

2002 Third Paper

On Serendip


Lindsay Updegrove

My praxis site is a local nursing home that provides short-term and long-term medical assistance to the elderly. It consists of four floors, the first and third floors house long-term residents, the fourth floor houses Alzheimer's patients, and the second floor houses patients who generally need more medical attention. There are also eight apartments attached to the main building for for residents who are able to live more independently. Each floor has a nurse's station at the center and a chapel/meeting area where religious services and performances are held.

As a volunteer, I help patients get to and from activities like Shabbas services, bible-study, and card games (most residents are in wheelchairs). Most of my time is spent making individual room visits, just chatting with the patients. While many of the patients display varying degrees of confusion, they are almost always extremely happy to have a young visitor to talk to. Some are willing to share in-depth personal histories, although these accounts do not always make sense especially with regards to time and when events happened in their past.

Most of the patients are women; there is about a 4:1 female to male ratio. I have met one married couple who live together, and there is one other couple who live separately. The dynamics of these relationships should be interesting to learn about!

Communication is the biggest difficulty I foresee. I don't really feel comfortable pushing the people I talk with to discuss their sexual feelings; I really have to be artful with conversation. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that many patients become confused while we are talking, and tend to repeat themselves multiple times, or get distracted. Some are easily upset; being bedridden has lowered their self-esteem. Volunteers at the nursing home really try to be encouraging about this.


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