The challenge of a smile

Paul Byerly is a UNCC student who is volunteering with HPCCR.  He began an assignment in June, visiting a female patient with dementia who is living in a long-term care facility.  Even though she has dementia, the patient is alert at times and able to carry on a conversation.  Paul sent this summary to a volunteer coordinator:

My first visit was a very nerve-racking experience for me, especially in the beginning when I started talking to the wrong patient!  There was a woman in the room, so I started conversing with her.  But then the nurse came in after 5 minutes and said that my patient was in the common area in front of the TV.  I felt so silly.  The nurse informed me that the patient will probably not speak to me, so I decided to take her for a stroll in the wheelchair.  We strolled outside for 10 to 15 minutes before we returned to the common area.  My hope is that she enjoyed spending time outside, even if it was just for a little while.  I really want to get a lot out of this experience and do not want to get discouraged.

To help out with the situation, I have enlisted the help of a gerontology linguistics expert who specializes in communicating with dementia patients.  I am going to see if any of her information can help me during my visits with the patient.  My goal is get her to smile, even if it only happens once during my time with her.  Hopefully the Johnny Cash music I have for her will bring back some memories, especially since the interest sheet stated that she loves 1960s and 1970s country music.

HPCCR volunteers are exceptional because, like Paul, they always take the necessary steps to make a connection with their patients.  Over the next several weeks, you’ll read about Paul’s subsequent visits with this patient.  Do you think he’ll ever see that smile?

Explore posts in the same categories: hospice, long-term care, volunteering

One Comment on “The challenge of a smile”

  1. Cindy Tilley Says:

    Paul, I enjoyed your visit summary with our dementia patient. I will ‘stay tuned’ to see if you ever get that smile. Something tells me you will! Thank you for all you do!


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