It often takes time to begin visiting a new patient. Just making contact can feel like a major breakthrough and we need that before volunteer visits can begin, so that the patient can agree to visits and tell us when to visit.
When we can’t make contact, we sometimes just make the first visit a “drop in.” We can do this because we have been assured they want visitors, we just can’t set up a pre-arranged time.
My first “drop in’ was to a lady who was located 25 miles away. When I signed in at the assisted living center, I asked where the room was. “Upstairs to the left at the end of the hall” they said. I went there and noticed the numbers go all the way up to the one before the room number I was looking for, then the area turned into a screened outdoor sitting space.
I wandered around the second floor and found the room that I was looking for at the opposite end of the building, The numbers were totally out of sequence; it was as if they stuck this one room there as an after-thought. I knocked on the door but I knew the lady could not speak above a whisper, so I stuck my head in and hoped for the best. I stepped in and made eye contact; then began to introduce myself.
It is hard to tell if you should continue at times.
I walked to her recliner and tried to have a conversation but I seemed to be failing miserably. After a few excruciatingly long minutes, she said ”I’m having a bad time right now.” I figured I better stay just in case things really took a turn. That did not happen.
A few more minutes passed, not as bad as before and there was a knock at the door. Her priest had come to give communion. So in this very short time we established that she was having a bad episode, but it would pass. Every Friday at 11:00 she gets communion before lunch, yes she most definitely wants visitors and I better come back after lunch on Fridays.
Some things you just cannot do over the phone.