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Boudiga
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
i was wondering how other folks who do therapy visits handle awkward moments.

when visiting my MIL at the rehab center (MIL broke her ankle and is in rehab for a while) on Halloween we had a nurse tell us that there was a woman who was in xyz room down the hall that LOVED dogs and how she had had a yellow lab and she'd be thrilled to see Faith in her costume.

well, i took Faith down there and it wasn't quite a disaster, but it was uncomfortable. i knocked on the door and asked if Mrs G was there (the way the nurse referred to her) and there was a woman there, playing solitare with some cards.

she looked up at me, but didn't answer me. as a matter of fact, she never even looked at Faith, but kept her eyes on me. so, i said again, (a bit louder) hi, nurse so and so told me to come down and visit with Mrs G because of how much she likes dogs.

again, no response, just the steady staring. so i just said ok, have a great Halloween and turned around to leave.

we were actually back in the hall, but not out of sight when she said my great-grandchildren have a dog like that. i turned around and said oh, how nice, what's the dog's name?

and that started about a 5 minute conversation. but, she seemed to not know what to do with me, like, didn't really want to talk to me. she was answering any questions very stilted - and, by questions, i don't mean i was pestering her or asking anything personal. just, like, what's the dog's name, how old is he, all related to the dog.

so i just wrapped it up and told her we were off to visit some other rooms, and to have a good night and we left.

it was quite awkward, and i haven't had that experience yet. mostly, i've gotten very strong cues from folks - they turn their head away if not interested, and i've had a few yell across a hall "get that cute dog in here!" so i wasn't sure what to make of it.

is there something i could have done differently? how would you / have you handled a similar situation?
 

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Missing Selka So Much
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Are you sure it was the right room? and even if it was, maybe the woman has dementia or Alzheimer's and wasn't quite with what was going on.

Selka and I did pet therapy and hospice care for a long time. Sometimes people really weren't in a place (in pain or emotionally) to connect so I just said to take care and moved on. The staff are just human and even if they think a person would love a dog visit, it just may not be a good day for it.

It is great you are doing it though!!!
 

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Brady Aedan Finch and Wren
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I've had a few awkward moments while visiting. I used to work as a CNA in psychiatric and/or geriatric homes and would call on some of those skills.

Look at the eyes, similar to dogs they will be soft and receptive if a visit is welcome, and if the person being visited is stilted, just let them interact with the dog without speaking directly to them .. some folks have been incarcerated so long or are just so depressed that speaking is no longer comfortable while stroking or petting a pet can bring much comfort.

The residents have also lost enough say in their day to day decisions that a dog visit might need to be on their terms, that is by reaching out when you are turning to leave. If I did not get a welcome when I asked if they'd like (Casey/Rowdy/King) to visit with them awhile, I would thank them and wish them a good day. They would frequently reach out at this point, its hard but these are the very residents that I loved visiting the most once the ice had been broken.

If there eyes are hard and kind of flat, move on .. I once had a lady calling my Casey with literally open arms and he was hesitant and finally barked while backing away .. I then looked at her eyes and was late for the door, so to speak. She looked like she meant him harm.
 

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Scouts Mom
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I work in a rehab facility. Honestly, there's probably nothing more you could have done. Maybe if you stayed a bit longer she would have warmed up to you and your dog more. Then again she may have told you to leave if you stayed any longer. She may have been having a bad day? Maybe she was confused? It's so hard to know what's going through other peoples minds, especially if they are sick or have dementia. If you ever go back I would try again.
 

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Old Gold is the Best Gold
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Sometimes it happens. The most upsetting to me is when they cry. I've had people sob on sight of Rigby or some other dog I am visiting with just because they had that breed, or they had any dog at all, and miss them so much. The hardest was when one client (patient?) was crying and calling Romeo (my deceased Golden, my avatar photo) her dead dog's name, and she honestly thought he was her old dog. She had some type of memory loss condition. It was heart wrenching, because when I left she was calling, "Frankie" and begging me not to take her dog away.
 

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Missing Selka So Much
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Sometimes it happens. The most upsetting to me is when they cry. I've had people sob on sight of Rigby or some other dog I am visiting with just because they had that breed, or they had any dog at all, and miss them so much. The hardest was when one client (patient?) was crying and calling Romeo (my deceased Golden, my avatar photo) her dead dog's name, and she honestly thought he was her old dog. She had some type of memory loss condition. It was heart wrenching, because when I left she was calling, "Frankie" and begging me not to take her dog away.

Jenna, we had the same thing! A lady with Alzheimers always thought Selka was her dog from childhood and loved him so much! She was so gentle and loving with Selka and enjoyed him so. She got teary sometimes but it was never heartwrenching where I thought we shouldn't go back. I miss her.. she was so sweet.
 

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When we took our classes, we practiced different scenarios. It's no substitution for real life, and when I have gone into the retirement homes, I have gotten some reactions I could not have prepared for, and some that were text book.

There was one woman who told me "I don't want to pet a dirty old dog" and then reached down and petted Danny when I walked past her room.

Some of them keep up a tough exterior because they had to give up beloved pets to move into the retirement home and they didn't want to let their emotions get the better of them. I had one man tell me 3 times when I asked him (he kept looking at Danny) that he didn't want to pet him. I asked him the 4th time because he just looked like he wanted to pet Danny and he said yes. Then he whispered to me that he had always had retrievers and had to give them up to come into the home and that it was so nice to be petting one again.
 

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Boudiga
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
i should have added, i know it was the right room. the nurse gave me her full name, room number and then called her Mrs G. the names are on the wall outside the room, so i do know i was in the right place.

i was wondering if i startled her a bit, but i did knock and call out. and, Faith, who normally wants to run right up to folks wasn't interested in running over there, which surprised me. Faith was just hanging out nicely and relaxed at my side.

thanks for all the input, since i'm still really new at doing this i haven't quite figured it all out and wasn't sure if there was something i could do differently.
 

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Scouts Mom
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i should have added, i know it was the right room. the nurse gave me her full name, room number and then called her Mrs G. the names are on the wall outside the room, so i do know i was in the right place.

i was wondering if i startled her a bit, but i did knock and call out. and, Faith, who normally wants to run right up to folks wasn't interested in running over there, which surprised me. Faith was just hanging out nicely and relaxed at my side.

thanks for all the input, since i'm still really new at doing this i haven't quite figured it all out and wasn't sure if there was something i could do differently.
Faith could sense the woman didn't want her to be there. It's probably good that you left.

I knew that there was something seriously wrong with my friend when Scout refused to approach him, and she acted really strange. Normally she covers him with kisses and jumps all over him. Also, he did not call out to her when he saw her like he normally does. When your dog senses something is off, listen. My friend ended up having a stroke, he's lucky I didn't let him leave and I called his wife to come and get him. I honestly thought he was drunk off his butt, but it was the stroke comming on. He ended up being in a coma for 10 days and almost died. Scout may have saved his life because without her acting that way I may not have noticed something was off.
 

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Magica Goldens
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i was wondering how other folks who do therapy visits handle awkward moments.
<snip>
is there something i could have done differently? how would you / have you handled a similar situation?
My greeting is always "would you like a visit from a therapy dog?" And this is even if I know the people in the room (and they always LOVE a visit) or if so and so has told me that they want a visit - and especially on the times where a family member has come to drag me down to visit. It's important to always make sure the resident/occupants of the room actually WANT a visit. And in your case the woman may have wanted a visit - but didn't know how to ask for a therapy dog visit...or wasn't sure that you were offering one and not just making chit-chat...it also would give her an option to just say "no" and end the conversation right there if she was so inclined.

That she figuratively re-opened the door with the question probably means she was interested - in at least a conversation...I don't know - try again on your next visit - but absolutely be direct :)

Erica
 

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Dodger's not a therapy dog, but before my grandmother passed away I would take him to visit her in the nursing home. The problem was her roommate did not like dogs. If this other lady was in the room I would keep Dodger in the hall and common areas, but everytime she saw that he was there she would be up and down the halls screaming at me in Italian. (I think she had dementia.) So that was awkward, but I would just carry on and let the people who wanted to see him come over to pet him.

My lab Chance, who passed away last year, had his therapy dog title, and when my grandfather was in the hospital, my mom would bring him to visit and then walk him around to see the other residents. He was normally pretty crazy (think Marley and Me) but at the hospital he would be so calm in lay his head in people's lap. Oh and everytime my grandmother came to visit our house and walked down the basement stairs he would always be right there at her side slowly walking down with her (as oposed to his usual barreling down at full speed). It's funny how intuitive they can be.
 

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I never did therapy, but I did have a situation that kind of shocked me.

My friend's "Nana", who I was also very close to, whose health had been declining with strokes, had come home from the hospital, and lived with my friend. She had always loved animals.

To cheer her up, I brought my then 10 week old Great Pyrenees to visit her. He was just a big ball of fluff! Well, Nana freaked out when she saw him. She was so scared of him, I could not get him out of the house fast enough. It was almost like she did not know what he was.

So who knows what games the brain plays when somebody is suffering from brain ailments.
 

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After your initial introduction you just have to go with the flow. I used to work as a CNA. Depending on what is going on with patients, moods and attitude can change day to day and moment to moment. We were trained to always say, "Hi Mrs. or Mr. So and so, it's me Kim." We also were trained to let people know everything we were doing with and for them.
 

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Tracer, Rumor & Cady
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sounds like you did just fine to me...
You kept the questions general and dog related...
Kept the number of questions to 3-4 (enough to give her a chance to warm up and enough for you to see that she was not looking for an extended visit...)

Being in the hospital surrounded by strangers is not a natural environment for most people...so many strangers...on top of dealing with the reason they are there! So much loss of control of your privacy...
 

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Magica Goldens
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btw - based on the subject line I expected a totally different question actually....

We've seen residents have massive and stinky BMs while we're visiting - do you call the nurses or not? Shouldn't it be the residents that call for clean-up? I mean if they're up and talking to you SURELY they know what has happened. We've seen wardrobe malfunctions (some of them weren't perhaps accidental), I've had my butt grabbed by interesting elderly (male) residents...oh the stories of the rehab ward...
 

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Boudiga
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
oh my - thank goodness i haven't witnessed any wardrobe malfunctions or other weirdness! but, now you have me curious - how on earth do you deal with that?

the only thing i've kind of seen is how rudely my MIL's roommate treats the staff. she's always telling them it's the worst food she's ever eaten, how they can't work the termostat correctly, things like that.
 

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Magica Goldens
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oh my - thank goodness i haven't witnessed any wardrobe malfunctions or other weirdness! but, now you have me curious - how on earth do you deal with that?
Well, the really bad BM I excused us, with a pleasant "it's time for us to move along" - which was more or less the truth, and on my way by the nursing station I mentioned to the nurse that she might want to check on Mrs. X.

Lets see, the wardrobe malfunctions - I don't want to see it, so I basically ignore it - but sometimes it's like - holy cow there's a boobie in the room. It's just uncomfortable and again a quick exit when the conversation allows. When the horny 90+ year old that exposed himself, well I just left...Perhaps not so politely, I excused myself - without apology - but without really calling him on his behavior either...He was the same one who got grabby too so we just stopped going to that wing.

E
 

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Patty, ask the staff these questions and see what they say. You have opened yourself up to a whole new world. You are doing a great service, but with it comes some interesting moments. I would definitely report BM's as I pass the nursing station. My situation is different (as an employee). Having dressed many a resident, I'd politely just fix Mrs. X's clothing while not embarrassing her. The elderly gentleman, hmmm...Happens more often than one thinks.

These are all good questions and should be directed to the Therap. Rec Director (if that is who sets up the visits) or the Director of Nursing.
 

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What interesting insight into the human condition is in this thread. As I read, I couldn't help thinking that some day each of us will be the person "in the room".
Thanks to all of you who help older people stay in contact with this world.
 
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