A party for all


“And then, he got up and danced!” Mrs. M says. I must not be responding with appropriate enthusiasm, because she repeats herself, a little louder–for all the world like I was the one hard of hearing.
“Got up as in got up out of his wheelchair?” I say. I can just see that…or rather, I can just see the aides’ faces when an unsteady resident decided to up and boogie.
“Oh yes! He was dancing!” Mrs. M replies dreamily, twirling her hair brush through her gray curls.
I swallow hard…for a second there I could swear I saw a ghost. Not a ghost of the dead, but the ghost of the girl this old woman was.

There had been a party the evening before and yesterday, I had been very glad that the party came after my shift. Parties, like holidays, are a disruption of the normal routine. I’d call them controlled chaos, but most of the time it feels like only the last word is applicable.
The problem is that you are still expected to do your normal work: give showers, feed people, change people, lay people down–all this and assist them to and during a party. Afterwards, all your residents will be on a sugar high, excited and unable to settle.
It can be quite trying to the CNA, these resident parties. I always end those kind of shifts with a massive headache from all the extra noise and the general craziness.

And yet. Mrs. M isn’t the only one to regal me with stories of the party. Actually, at this point I could probably give you a complete run-down of the events with an exact time-table–even taking in to account that half my witnesses have dementia.
I have seen more smiles this morning than I have in the collective week before. Old women are giggling like schoolgirls and there is just this air of contentment. If you ask them right now, most of my residents would tell you that life is good. And that cake was delicious!

I look at Mrs. M, still twirling her brush with a far-off, dreamy expression and I think back on the last party I worked. Yes, it had been hectic, but right now I’m remembering the laughs, the smiles and the “oohs”. I remember taking a slice of cake with an icing flower back to someone’s room who had been too sick to get up. I remember maneuvering a wheelchair in a couple of tight circles so that the man in it could pretend he was dancing. I remember helping an extensive assist feeder eat her meal and asking her if she was happy. And most of all, I remember her saying “yes”.

“Do you know,” I tell Mrs. M as I help her out of the bathroom, “I wish I could’ve been there to see that.”
“There will be another party, dear,” she says.
“Yes, there will be.”

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