Following A Possum

Years ago, I was driving down a country back-road in Virginia. When I say back road, I mean it was so desolate that even the grazing deer waved down cars just to check on the status of civilization.  Scattered farm houses, sprawling forests and winding creeks with the smallest bridges you have ever encountered were the highlights of this road.

I was scheduled to be at a little country church, somewhere down this never end road, to play the piano for a wedding for a friend of a friend of a friend.

Driving along, a possum ran out in front of my car. Rather than crossing the road, it proceeded to run straight along the road in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and followed along behind this critter at a snails pace. I was distracted by his movement; amazed at how he just took his sweet ole time, jogging southbound, in no hurry to arrive at his destination. I followed him for at least two miles, creeping along. Finally, the possum decided to take a sharp right, and ran off into some high weeds, allowing me to pass safely.

You may wonder why I didn’t run over the possum, or better yet, pass the possum. I wondered that myself. I was captivated by him. For that few minutes, I was not worried about finding the church, nervous about playing for the wedding, nor concerned about anything but the cute possum.

What I did that day, was simple. I allowed myself to become distracted from the the hum-drum of life, and enjoyed doing something I would probably never ever be put in a position to do again. What are the odds of a possum running out in front of me and staying in front of me for two miles again? Slim to none. This happened over 10 years ago, and I can recall the event like it was yesterday, yet I can not remember what I ate for breakfast this morning! Little simple things like this possum are the things we remember and are amused by as life goes on.

Little simple things matter in life, and matter in providing care to our dementia residents. If we as caregivers, allow ourselves to be distracted long enough from policies and protocols to see the person we are caring for as a person, we would provide better, quality care, For example, one of our residents can not feed herself. She refuses to open her mouth to be fed due to the progression of dementia.

One of the nursing assistants learned that she owned a huge farm, raising chickens, cows, and goats. During meal times, the nursing assistant would start asking about the chickens. “How many chickens did you have?” “Did you milk the goats?” “Were the chickens white or red?” What kind of cows?” The nursing assistant distracted her with conversation, and the resident began eating 100% of her meals. Other nursing assistant picked up this technique, asking the same questions until she had eaten all of her food. Distractions are nice diversions.  

Little things. Simple things. These are the things that matter in providing care to our residents.  Knowing that a resident loves music, provides us with distraction technique when he becomes aggressive. Knowing that a resident loves to wear the color green makes it easier to get her to change her clothes. Little things. Simple things.

Back to the story, I found the church, the wedding was beautiful, the music was right on, even if I do say so myself.  Driving back down the same road to return home to the civilized world, I smiled as I thought about my earlier traveling companion. I hope he too, had made it safely to his destination.

Never discount the little things in life. Not even the possum.



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