It’s the end of a 12-hour shift at the geriatric psychiatry unit where I work. I’m standing in the hallway waiting for night shift to come out of report. A very delusional woman is conversing brightly with a very confused gentleman who thinks he’s at the bowling alley (but he can’t find his bowling shoes). “Here,” she says, patting the air to her right. “You can sit by me.”

She’s totally convinced there’s a chair there, and keeps urging him to sit, and he’s looking, trying to figure out what she’s patting, and whether he should try to sit on it, but he’s too polite to tell her he doesn’t see anything, and he’s had a lot of problems lately with things not being how he thinks they are, so he’s not completely sure there’s not a chair there.

He looks away with this helpless expression and starts to leave, hesitates and looks back, like maybe he’ll see it this time, then starts to turn away again, and hesitates again. I go and get him a chair and put it under where she was patting, and whisper to him, “here’s one you can see!” and he smiles at me, looking relieved, and sits down.

Another day: the same delusional woman has spent 20 minutes calling me “Lisa” and catching me up on all the latest family news, even though I keep telling her my name is Ruth. “Oh, you have a cousin named Ruth, you know!” she says brightly, and continues right on. She keeps asking, “remember so-and-so? or “you know that time we…” and I say “no, I’m sorry, I don’t…” Finally it dawns on her that I really think my name is Ruth, and that I actually think I’m not her daughter, and she stops and looks at me incredulously. Then she says “are you out of your mind???

I guess it’s all relative, at that. 🙂

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