A Special Care Lullaby
Everyone who works on the Special Care Unit knows that when the sun goes down, our patient’s behavior often changes. “Sundowning” is a state of confusion that usually occurs at the end of the day and into the night, often occurring in people with dementia. Our patients can become agitated, fearful and confused. Keeping them safe and calming their agitation can be challenging.
A male patient recently on our unit was in that state. Terri Carter, RN, was his primary nurse, but we were all working together to coming up with creative ideas to keep him safe. The PCT’s, Keyonta Goodman, Kasey Rimpf and Veronica Zeuch, took turns helping him from bed to chair, all the while engaging him in conversation and helping to settle him down. Tracey Neal, RN, also on duty, took time to work with him as well, but nothing seemed to ease his agitation.
As we continuted to work with this patient, I looked up and saw the hospital’s volunteer harpist. Before she could ask, I ushered her to the doorway of the patient’s room. We helped the patient back to bed as the harpist began to softly play “The River is Wide.”
I returned to my group of patients around the corner. Distracted by my own busy group, I realized several minutes had passed and no alarms were going off in that room. I peeked around the corner and saw the patient lying in bed, eyes closed and breathing softly, as the harpist continued to play. I tip-toed into his room, softened the lights, and then joined Terri in the hallway to celebrate this amazing event. With the gentle sound of the harp in the background, we exchanged glances of amazement.
The harpist played for about twenty minutes. She said later that she stopped for a minute, but the patient began to stir. She resumed and kept playing until he was fast asleep.
This was a true team effort—what a great example of our AAMC team working together to give excellent patient care!
-Mary Cohn, RN, MSN