Patience is a Virtue

I grew up hearing that statement, and I have recited it on many occasions – Patience is a virtue. It refers to the ability to wait for something, or someone, without being annoyed or angry at the selfish inconvenience of it all. Obviously, I’m still working on this particular virtue.

Patience, for me, has always been a work in progress. After raising two children of my own, it continued to be a work in progress. I readily admit that I’m one of those people who will drive five miles out of the way just to avoid sitting in traffic. If there’s a long wait at a restaurant, I’ll eat someplace else. If a salesperson takes too long to acknowledge my presence, I leave. At least, that’s the way it used to be.

When I started working with Lia, she taught me a very valuable lesson about waiting, and the virtue of patience. Never have I understood the true meaning of that concept the way I understand it now.

Lia is not a patient person. She is easily frustrated when she meets the least amount of resistance. If a puzzle piece doesn’t fit in the place of honor she has selected for it, there’s a good chance it will go sailing across the room, banished from her kingdom forever. When she wants something, she wants it right now. She doesn’t like to be told “later”. “Later is for gators,” her eyes seem to say, “or chumps.”

But this isn’t really about Lia’s patience (or lack of), it is about the caregivers who are tasked to work with her.

When I find myself orienting new Nurses who have tentatively agreed to help with Lia’s case, I will often tell them, “Patience is a virtue when you work with Lia. She has a strong personality.” While that’s sinking in, I try as hard as I can to convey how important the next statement is. “Speaking from my personal experience with her, you can either hurry up and wait, or you can wait patiently. But you’ll soon find out that Lia moves when she’s ready, and not a second sooner.”

One of the examples that I use involves ‘shower time’. If she is in the mood to be agreeable, we can be in and out of the bathroom in fifteen or twenty minutes. If she decides she isn’t ready for her shower, and chooses instead to sit on the toilet for an hour, be prepared for her to sit. And by sit, I mean just that – full lotus position, just sitting.

This is the point where I can almost see the gears in their heads ramp into overdrive while they mentally search their brains for relevant data on dealing with difficult patients while delivering efficient nursing care. I smile.

I smile because I learned the hard way, if you try to push Lia, Lia pushes back. So we wait, and we work on our virtues.

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