Getting old and the truth about Alzheimer’s

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

Her son went to visit her at her house of 52 years. The sound in the bathroom indicated that the faucet in the tub was running…. And overflowing onto the floor. A series of events piled one on top of the other. A totaled car, candles burning in the house haphazardly, repetitive questions mentioned 5 minutes apart… The same questions over and over again… Hugging her granddaughter but not remembering her name….

And we knew it was time to place her in a safe, secure atmosphere as An Assisted Living Center. Ruthie went on the tour and loved it! Lots of ‘happy people’, helpful people, energy, serenity, projects, cooking, dining, church, outings, friendship, exercise, tomato gardens….it all seemed like a country club paradise!! And Ruthie told the man in the suit and tie, ‘I’m loaded, sign me up’.

She was ‘loaded’ for 1970’s standards, but Assisted Living Centers easily cost $3500-$5000 per MONTH. And her lifelong saving would easily become diminished after 2+ months. After her son did much homework and inquiring, he found out that Medicaid could kick in, depending on the facility and help after her bank account dwindled down to $2500.

Her son, Terrence, made it happen.

Her last day at her home, suitcases packed. 52 years of living in the same house, lots of memories in this two bedroom, one bath house…. Raising her two boys, middle school, high school, proms, watching her one son go off to college during the Vietnam War, watching her sons walk away from their strict Baptist teachings, One son, married twice, the other son married three times, her husband, of 22 years, walking out that door for another woman, one son ending his life…. Lots of emotions in those walls…. If those walls could talk….

And Ruthie teared up, this was her home, her safe place, her castle, and she had to walk away from it. She searched around desperately seeking her trinkets that were reminders of her life, pictures of yesteryear, cups, plates, clocks, all to be minimized now into one bedroom in this country club estate she would enter.

We all choked up, and I couldn’t help but reflect, all the times I’d sleep in her empty bedroom from nightshift because my little kids wouldn’t let me sleep at our home! And I’d wake up to a tomato sandwich and homemade vegetable soup and the famous ‘Granny Ruthie’s tea….

It’s hard to say goodbye, and to start a new life that tells you that you are near the finish line… She finally put her shoes and socks on, after we asked her to do so six times, she took one more look in her family room, her favorite chair, her fancy living room that was reserved only for the church folk on Sunday’s… And she took her final framed photographs with her… Her pride and joy… Her two sons… One still attentive and alive, the other one .. Gone forever….

We loaded everything up in the car and sadly walked away from that life.

Maybe one of the saddest things I’ve had to deal with, because the truth is… This is all way too close to home, too close to my truth, one day.

(Photo credit: http://www.dojo Image Stream via Google Image search)

A child’s cry through haunting eyes

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

The emergency department.

A haven for cardiac arrests and gunshot wounds and respiratory distress and overdoses and auto accidents and children’s sniffles and fever and coughs that won’t go away. The ED was easy access to many. And at times, it was an easy fix not to pay the bill upfront or to be anonymous with your problem.

As much as I loved emergency nursing, it was always the children that left me tormented. Buddy with his fractured hip that his parents said he was getting rowdy and fell off the bunk bed. In reality, he was thrown down the stairs by daddy, as his hip fractured.

Jasmine with her beautiful but disheveled hair and her tiny arms dotted with cigarette burns.

Trisha, malnourished with those large eyes black as coal and empty from lack of love. And lack of nutrition. Starving for love. And starving.

Little Susie, sexually assaulted at the age of eight by her momma’s boyfriend. Her souls snatched from her forever.

We kept social services busy. The parents had their situation all explained and planned out. Another accident. Not my fault. He deserved it. Punishment. She flirted with me. The children all had a typical trait. They did not talk. They had no eye contact with the nurse or doctor. They were sullen and withdrawn. And they broke my heart.

They wouldn’t speak, most likely out of fear. But their eyes told everything. The sorrow. The pain. The fear.

This was before the advent of large hospitals having a designated emergency department for pediatrics. We had to be well versed from baby to geriatrics. You can mend the body parts with stents and dialysis and ventilators and medications and surgeries. But you can’t mend the soul of an innocent child who lost his or her voice through abuse. Through neglect.

The social workers and police were our strength and the children’s protection. The parents would scream and shout, “That’s my child! Give him back to me!” as the child would be taken into protective foster custody.

The anguish of a child wanting and needing love from the only person they knew. Their mom. Their dad. Even with incredible abuse, the young children still craved that simple love from a parent. Simple love that they would never have. And a life sentence of pain and anguish and heartache.

My nightmares would not end. I’d wake up in a sweat and a repeated dream of a small child’s hand reaching out to me but never able to grasp his tiny fingers.

Originally published at

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