Lunch At the Home

Today, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch hour with Peg and five ladies at the rehab center. When I arrived Peg was busy in conversation with Gert a short haired little lady to her right. What amazed me was that neither of them have very good hearing. The back ground noise of construction, clattering silverware, and many conversations made it hard to hear anything. Add the fact that Peg and most of the ladies there suffer from dementia and words don’t come to them. Still they were consumed by conversation. I must have missed something, because I haven’t been able to understand anything Peg has said  for the past six months. I did notice that they used a lot of facial expressions, smiles, finger points, and head bobs. Somehow it seems to work for them.

I began spoon feeding Peg, and observed what was going on around us. Across the table was another short-haired, white-haired lady with an extremely sharp chiseled nose named Annette. She was bent over, her head barely above the table. Her son-in-law Ray came to help her eat. He placed a clip board in front of her with a blank sheet of paper, and a pen. Annette began to write. She tried telling him something, but the volume of her voice was a whisper. As weak as her voice was she held the pen firmly and wrote smoothly without hesitation. I never did learn what she wrote, but she filled an entire page before she began to eat. An aid brought her a plate of food which had been macerated. Her ham and cheese sandwich looked like a scoop of pink mashed potatoes. Ray handed her a spoon and Annette took a scoop of the pink stuff and held it under her face. She raised the spoon toward her lips and stopped half way unable to make it to her mouth, her hand dropped. She tried again, but failed. The third time she lifted her hand as far as it would go, and dropped her mouth down to meet it. A vision of Tim Conway of the Carol Burnette show streamed through my mind. Meanwhile, a nurse placed a glass of protein shake in front of Gert. She snubbed her nose at it. A  drip hung from the tip of her nose. She was visibly upset about the drip and slowly raised the edge of the table cloth to blot it. An aide spotted her too late and came running with a handful of kleenex. Gert reached for the protein shake and tipped the glass spilling it across the table. She made the move so smoothly it was hard to tell if she did it on purpose. My guess is she didn’t want to drink it, so she disposed of it.

I sat on Peg’s left, and beside me sat Rose. A very active ninety-two year old Italian lady. She is the only resident not using a wheelchair. She walks to the dining room with her purse hanging off her shoulder and sits at the head of the table. Everyday she has the same thing, heavily buttered raisin toast, a cheese omelet, and two cups of coffee with three creams each. Today, she waits and feels ignored. Not to be left out, she rises from the table and heads for the kitchen to get her coffee. She returns empty handed with an aide following her with the coffee in one hand three creams in the other. Rose sits again pours the three creamers into the coffee. Her omelet arrives. There is no toast, and she waits again. Her greatest enjoyment is to break off a piece of toast and dip it into her coffee and eat it like a biscotti. Having waited long enough she rises and proceeds to the kitchen to get her raisin toast.  “We’re making it Rose,” comes the voice of an aide. Rose returns and two minutes later the toast arrives. Rose is finally happy.


Anna, an aid, arrives to encourage Rose to eat. Anna looks across at Peggy and says in her heavy Polish accent “why you not smiling?” Peg stares with contempt at the aid who takes care of her. She has grown to dislike Anna, but cannot tell me why. Then Peg flashes a big toothy and phony smile at Anna, and says, “that’s because you are full of shit.” I almost fell out of my chair.

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