‘Wow, that was a long time ago’ she mused as she stumbled across a file in her drawer dating back 16 years ago to her days as a student nurse. She started leafing through the file when a piece of paper fell out of it. It was a poem entitled: “To one growing old alone”. As she read through it she remembered her community nursing placement as if it was only yesterday.
The day had started like any other day. She had taken the bus to the community health centre she’d been allocated to for the placement. Once there she met up with her mentor for the week, and they set off on the road. They had arrived at the first house and had been warmly greeted at the door by Mrs Brown (not her real name). During the course of the visit Mrs Brown had broken down in tears because she was so lonely. The stories she told them whilst they were attending to her wound care deeply impacted her and stayed with her throughout the day.
When she got home later that day, she reflected upon the clients they had visited but in particular Mrs Brown. In her reflecting she wrote the following poem:
To one growing old alone
Sitting in a room all alone in your chair
With hours full of loneliness and no one to care
Alone with your memories of a brighter day
When people came to visit who now stay away
As the years have passed and time has moved on
So illness and aging have stolen your song
Your body has changed; it’s not what you remember
Of the flame of your youth remains but an ember
No one stops to listen to the wisdom of your years
For your stories and memories nobody has ears
No stops to consider what you might need
Family are consumed with their own lives and greed
My heart goes out to you, wise and aged one
I admire you for the things you in your youth have done
I honour you for the contribution you’ve made to my world
And ashamed of the abuse which to you was hurled
You deserve more than this in the sunset of life
You don’t need the loneliness, the pain, the inner strife
What you need is lots of patience, love and peace
Someone to care for you and to meet your every need
Now as she sat in her home in Sydney, many continents and years separating her from her days as a student nurse, she reflected some more.
So many lonely people she had met during the course of her career thus far. So many people for whom a smile, a little time, a gentle touch or a kind word had been as valuable as the dressings she had done, the drugs she had administered, the beds she had made etcetera whilst they were in her care.
And there, in that moment, she resolved that she would never stop caring. She would never cease to stop for the one who was in front of her. After all, she mused: “if you remove genuine caring from nursing…what have you got left?”