One day last week as I was preparing to spend my coveted "lunch break" outdoors under the elusive Northwest sun, I came across one of my regular patients sitting alone in the hallway. I have grown to really enjoy working with this particular person because although she is in severe chronic pain, I can always expect her daily participation in therapy.
I thought it odd that this woman was sitting in one of the hallway chairs since it was her lunch hour and typically she would be in the dining room. Then I realized she was crying, which was completely out of character. I approached the woman and she reluctantly explained why she was so upset.
Apparently, there had been a mix up with her lunch and she did not receive her usual "grilled cheese" in lieu of the daily entree. The aide staff became frustrated with her because she refused to eat the entree they provided and firmly told her that she could not have a sandwich since she technically did not order it through her weekly "menu."
Obviously this was a communication breakdown between the patient and the aides and I told this woman so. What I did not tell her was there was a "sensitivity" breakdown as well. The aides, albeit understaffed and underpaid for their work, simply were digging in their heels by not acquiescing to this patient's request.
I told the woman I would be back in five minutes and to please meet me in her room. It then took me less than that to walk down to the facility kitchen, request a melted cheese plate lunch and arrive back to the patient's room, tray in tow. Did the aides have time to make the trek back to the kitchen? Perhaps not. But it didn't take much effort.
The woman was extremely grateful and I was glad I had the time to help all the parties in this situation. All the staff of the large SNF where I work have the monumental job of caring for a large and complicated patient population. It's incredibly easy to become frustrated with the erratic behavior and demands of patients. However, like I have to remind myself each day, these patients are people in pain, confused at times and homesick. A little grace can go a long way.