On Thursday, July 2nd, I began my third day of volunteering at St. Andrews Village. It’s a Presbyterian living community. I am working mostly in the areas that provide care for people with injuries, people with forms of dementia, or people who are still okay in their mind for the most part, but need help getting around. This was my first Thursday which also means that it was my first day working in the campus salon. So far, it is my favorite part about working at St. Andrews. I brought people from the different living areas to the salon to get their hair done. I also brought them back to where they were staying, once they were finished. I helped put rollers in the ladies hair and helped to take them out. I also was there to help clean up the hair supplies and get things for the beautician.
I think the thing that blessed me the most about helping out today, was seeing how happy the residents were to see me. They really were glad that I was there to help and spend time with them. One lady kept complimenting me about everything. She said, “Oh you’re just torturing and teasing me because your so young and pretty! Oh to be young again.” I smiled really big and told her that I wished I had her hair because it was super curly (from a perm I found out) and it was pure white (naturally) like snow. I said that it was the perfect white color and that seemed to please her, because she started telling me all about how people compliment her all the time on her white hair and how she has to say every time that it’s very natural. I think she was my favorite lady to come in that day. All of the people were very very kind and made my day. They have the best smiles.
Today, I learned that I love the elderly a lot more than I thought I did. I never disliked them, but I really love them now more than I did originally. They have so many stories and smiles to offer and no matter how sad or boring their day seems to be going, they always light up when they see you. I have also learned even more that I am out of shape. Pushing all those wheelchairs around the campus really makes your arms, legs, and everything get a good workout. It is good, refreshing exercise though and I welcome the vigorous walking.
I gained more sympathy for the residents here today. We went to get one lady from her room to bring her to the salon and she said, “I want to get my hair done today. But my family is coming to see me.” We told her we would have her back with her hair all done by the time her family got there. When I brought her back to her room it was about 35 minutes later, but her family wasn’t there yet. She does have dementia and I wondered if her family was really coming or not. I hoped that they were because I was ready to sit with her myself and visit her since she seemed so lonely. I also visited a lady with the beautician after we had closed down the salon. The beautician said that she had grown close to this lady since she’d been working at St. Andrews and the lady was basically dying. I had to hold back tears as I saw the lady laying there in bed with oxygen and barely able to talk. I had only met her that day. I think the thing that will be the hardest about volunteering here will be getting attached to the residents and watching them die. I’ve already made friends with basically all of them so far and I just hope that they don’t all die while I’m there. I know that it’s morbid and depressing, but it will be sad to have to watch them fade away. I just hope that I can be their friend while they are here.
Along with gaining more sympathy for the residents, I also gained some practical skills. I learned how to be a good listener and I learned my way around the campus a lot better. I learned how to take rollers out of someone’s hair, how to clean hair dryers, how to keep people engaged while they are waiting to get their hair done, and how in depth the beautician’s book-keeping job is. One problem that I experienced today was a lady with dementia who didn’t want her hair done. It needed to be done but she was very impatient and kept trying to pull out the rollers and even threatened to throw the hair dryer (which was the kind attached to the wall) at me. I kept her calm as best I could by encouraging her and telling her that she was doing well and her hair would look so nice when it was done. I also tried to draw her attention to other things, like her baby doll. I held her hand as well and looked straight in her eyes because dementia patients like physical attention and eye contact.
I will use everything I learned today by not only appreciating what I have while I still have it and can remember it, but also by being a better listener and being more encouraging. Also, I should have some better walking and pushing skills. If anyone wants there hair set as well, I am confident I can do that. So feel free to contact me if you want a hairstyle from the past. In any case, I know that I will love working here over the summer and I can’t wait to meet even more residents next Thursday.