Dragon Slayers

One of the resident’s in the facility every so often begins speaking very loudly. It’d not really a “yell”, nor is it on a conversational level, but more like a very loud, loud LOUD, spoken monologue.

“I saw them over there. Do you see them over there? They are over there. Are you listening to me? They are over there. Are you listening to me? Listen to me. They are over there.”   This will repeat for hours, and I do mean hours, unless someone does two things.

1. Acknowledge you see them over there.

2. Sit down, and say, “Robert, “I am listening”.

Once you have done those two things, Robert become calm, soft spoken and cooperative. 

Everyone, regardless of disease, disorder or physical challenge, likes to be heard when they are speaking. We are all born with the need for someone to listen to us. As babies, our mother or father hears our first cry, and cuddles us back to sleep. The parent heard the cry and responded.  As a child, if a nightmare or bad dream caused a child to scream out in fear, the parent would swoop to the rescue, reassuring the child, “it was only a dream. Again, the parent heard, and responded accordingly.

Recently, I was riding a really cool roller coaster at Kings Dominion. It towers at 305 feet tall. I love that coaster. I ride it over and over and over and over. I scream every single time on the 305 foot drop. Why? I want other around me to hear my excitement and my fear. I want to be heard.I want someone to say to me, “wasn’t that an amazing ride?” I don’t know the people seated around me, but as we all dismount from the thrill ride, a complete stranger will say “that was wild”. See, someone heard and, acknowledged my ” AYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”  that was screamed throughout the duration of the 50 second ride. 

My point is, we all want to be noticed, seen, heard and acknowledged in life.     Just as Robert sees “them over there”, that I do not see, does not make it any less real for him. Just as a parent calms a child after a bad dream about dragons, the dementia patient may too, need a dragon slayer. We, as long term care workers , need to stop tuning out the constant yelling/screaming of the advanced Alzheimer’s patient and begin listening to them, to see what it is they want heard. Robert simply wants us to know that “they are over there”. Once he knows that I know, he is settled.  Redirection of, “Robert, please stop yelling” will not be effective. It actually makes matters worse. He will begin yelling even louder for someone other than the person who tried to silence him, for now that person is the enemy now, and is “one of them“.     

Listening. It is a lost art.          We are all very busy in our jobs, and listening to a story that does not make sense anyway, well,who has time for that?  If we have become so busy in health care that we can not take the time to listen to our patients, who will slay their dragons? Who will calm their fears, real or imaginary? Who will acknowledge that “we see them” and that “we will take care of it?”

 Everyone that works in long term heath care needs to become a certified dragon slayer. A person who listens, acknowledges and abolishes dragons, monsters and bad guys.  

Real Heroes don’t wear capes, you know. Real Heroes are caring, patient, kind, gentle caregivers, dressed in scrubs….they listen to their patients, sooth their fears and slay all those dragons, that are ” over there”.



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