The Retired Nurse

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Nelly never married; she dedicated her life to her career as a nurse. Nelly rose through the ranks to become a nurse director, and she mentored many young aspiring student nurses on the way. One particular nurse, called Christine, owed a great deal to Nelly. When Nelly was a ward sister, Christine had a placement in her ward, and Nelly took her under her wing, teaching her the basics of being a good nurse. Christine grew up in care, and never knew the love of a mother; Nelly, being a bit older was like a mother figure to Christine, and they became friends of a sort.

Nelly moved to another city to a promoted post, and the two lost touch. Nelly had several nieces and nephews, and she spent a great deal of her time with them, when work allowed. As the years flew by, Nellie neared retirement, and she decided that it was time to move back to her home town, beside her family. She was very well thought of, and was known for her kindness and ability to bring the best out in people. Nelly’s retirement tea was quite a spectacular event, held at the local hotel, with several hundred people attending, to honour this fine lady, who had helped so many people throughout her career. Christine attended, and Nelly was surprised to see her after all these years. It was as if they had never stopped seeing each other. They chatted for ages, and then Christine had to leave, to pick her children up from school.

Nelly’s new home was on the outskirts of Glasgow, near her family, and she always had plenty of visitors, including great nieces and nephews. Her family noticed that Nelly was losing weight, and when they looked inside her cupboards, they found only biscuits and sweets. A doctor’s appointment was arranged, and Debbie, her oldest niece, accompanied her. Bloods were taken, and the doctor carried out a mini mental state assessment, which highlighted that Nelly was showing early signs of memory loss. Her blood results showed a high blood sugar, and other abnormalities. Nelly was very tearful when she received the news, and felt very frightened for her future. A year or so passed, and Nelly wasn’t managing at home, even with maximum care package. After a discussion with her family, Nelly agreed that the best thing for her was to go into a frail elderly unit, near her family. That way, they could visit regularly and make sure that she was being looked after properly.

And so the search began to find a suitable place for Nelly, somewhere that would allow her to maintain her independence as much as possible, but would also ensure that her personal care needs were being met. Eventually a suitable place was found; all that remained was to wait for a vacancy, so to speak. Now, Nelly was only seventy years old, and she still had insight into her condition. This caused her significant distress, and she began to worry about what would happen to her; would her family visit, and would the staff like her? Her anxiety became so severe, that her doctor gave her a small dose of medication to help relieve her symptoms.

Nelly’s diabetes worsened, and she became insulin dependent; the district nurse was arranged to visit, to administer this for Nelly, as she couldn’t do it herself. Who would’ve guessed that it would come to this? Nelly, the nurse director, nurse of the year in 1989 and always helping others. Depression began to set in, and Nelly felt that her life was hopeless. Where were all these friends and colleagues that she had known and helped over the years? She wondered why has this happened to her; after all, she had always eaten healthy food and exercised every day, it just doesn’t feel fair. As she sat alone, her mind wandered back to when she was a young student nurse, working in care of the elderly. She remembered the elderly patients who used to cry for their family, sometimes for their mum or dad. It was so sad to see previously dignified people, some of them war heroes or retired GPs breaking their heart, looking for people who were a long time gone from this world. Would this happen to her? Would she completely lose her memory and faculties? Fear began to overwhelm her. Nelly started phoning her nieces and nephews at all hours of the night, asking for someone to come over to make her tea, or take her to the shops to buy new shoes. This happened more and more, and something had to give, as the family weren’t coping very well.

Nelly remembered when she was young, and courting a lovely young man called Joe. Joe was the love of her life, and they had planned to get married and hopefully have a family, but this was not to be. Unfortunately, Joe became very ill and he was diagnosed with melanoma. Nelly nursed Joe, and took him to his chemotherapy sessions, and out patients appointments. Sadly, Joe didn’t make it, and he died peacefully, with Nelly by his side, holding his hand. Nobody ever lived up to Nelly’s standards, and she decided to become a career woman.

Agnes, Nelly’s niece arrived one morning, with good news; there was a vacancy at the local care home, and she took Nelly over to meet the staff and residents, before making the final decision to move in. The home was welcoming, and the staff couldn’t have been nicer. Agnes asked if the manager was about, to arrange Nelly’s paperwork, before she moved in. Nelly was very nervous, and wondered how she would cope, and where all of her stuff would go. One of the carers directed them both to the manager’s office. Agnes knocked on the door, and the door opened.

Nelly couldn’t believe her eyes! Standing before her was Christine, the young nurse that she had mentored many years ago. All that trepidation dissolved instantly. Christine and Nelly hugged, and Nelly felt more alive than she had in years. As the three of them sat together, planning Nelly’s move, Christine asked Nelly about her daily routine, and when she felt that she needed the most help, Nelly explained that she didn’t sleep well, and was unable to make herself tea and toast at night. Christine asked Nelly what she would like to do, and Nelly made it clear that she would prefer to stay at home.

After a long discussion, Christine informed Agnes and Nelly about the free rent for students scheme, where a student is matched with an elderly person, and they live rent free, on certain conditions. The conditions were that they would have dinner together at least four times a week, they would provide some practical help around the house and would be around in the evening to make supper. Asking Nelly if she fancied trying this before deciding on residential care, Nelly smiled and nodded her head. There was someone available, a student nurse who was away from her home town, who was looking for somewhere to stay, and Christine arranged a meeting.

A week later they met. Jenna was a tender eighteen years old, and she and Nelly instantly got on, Nelly’s maternal nature rising to the surface. Jenna moved in a week later, and with the support of her family and Jenna, Nelly continued to live at home. And of course, Christine visited twice a week, for a game of gin rummy, as they had done when they lived in the nurse’s residence all these years ago. Sometimes, there is a happy ending.


As I always say, ‘Be good to others on the way up, because you might meet them on the way down.’




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