Yeah, What They Said
-Joel Bosetti Godsil
The past six years as a nursing aide I have heard a lot of things from a lot of people; memorable things, good, bad, and bizarre.
Medical institutions (particularly nursing homes) can affect the mind of the young and the old, the sick and the injured, and the occasional guy who just wants the staff to leave him alone so he can die.
Hemodialysis, feeding tubes, dementia, broken bones and people in palliative care have a lot in common-that building of long-term care or short-term care puts things in perspective. Get a little nutty or trying to go out with some dignity.
In the past six years I have worked with these folks in three facilities in the Chippewa Valley of West-Central Wisconsin-DHC, CLR, and just recently OWV. No, the names of these nursing homes don’t have to be treated as private health information, but I would just assume not light any fires under administrative asses. My lot in life seems to be that these sorts of things come back to haunt me.
As I have said at the top, I have heard a lot from folks that probably won’t make the Brainy Quotes internet page, but they are on mine. No, some of them are not word-for word, but all of them speak from their hearts and minds.
“You know what you remind me of? A monkey.”
“So why do you do this work? Do you want to see old ladies naked?”
“…morning shift has Jolly Jodi, Jethro, and Blondzilla. I can’t think of a nickname for you, though.”
“I have to do a small tinkle job…no, I don’t, I suppose.”
“You know, for a straight guy, you are actually very nice.”
“The pain is still there, the phone isn’t working and I’ve crapped my pants again… I just can’t win.”
“You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.”
“How much they pay you for this?”
“That nurse is a dipshit. They should have you pass the pills.”
“What is that?”
“Creamed chicken on toast.”
“Looks like shit on a shingle.”
“…back in the day the grunts were on the front lines and only the girls were supposed to do this sort of thing. So why don’t you get the hell out of here and go peel the potatoes.”
“Mom, he’s married.”
“All the good ones are.”
“If they are gonna keep serving me this crap, they could at least give me a shot of vodka.”
“You’re a good kid. I bet you will be a good kid when you’re dead.”
“Where are my teeth? Oh God, you didn’t leave them in your pocket did you?”
“Dumbass girl from therapy wanted to walk me down the hall. Must have forgot I had the hip-replacement three days ago.”
“What is that?”
“Pureed roast beef.”
“Looks terrible. Would you eat something like that?
“Then why should I?”
“They keep telling me that I talk too much. Do you think I talk too much?”
“No, I don’t think you talk too much.”
“I think I’m done with the bedpan.”
“Okay. Have any luck?”
“Well, you tried. Maybe later.”
“Maybe they should put that in my epitaph: ‘she tried.’ Maybe they should make my gravestone in the shape of a bedpan.”
There is always more, but what sticks in my mind is who said it, what they said and why. Even the body language comes with it; the man who didn’t creamed chicken would sometimes wave his walking stick showing me what he would like to do to the administrative staff. Or the bedpan lady who jokes about having her gravestone shaped in a bedpan showing the shape of it with her one good arm-her other dead weight due to stroke. When the early Boomers start taking up beds down these halls one has to wonder what will be said next.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
It has been nearly two weeks since BW passed away, his bed sanitized and filled by a guy bigger than me, but angry about having to be here. For the most part, he’s an okay guy, but since he is able to get up to go to the toilet, change the channel on the TV, wash himself in the morning and walk to the dining room, he sees no reason to be at DHC. I try to be congenial to him, for he-like everyone else down 2300-deserves it.
WW is his roommate, and try as hard as I do to keep his spirits up, he’s getting angrier and more aggressive as the days go by. I have seen this type of behavior many times before: it precedes a very painful death.
Where I work can be extremely depressing sometimes, but I go in with the attitude that I would hate to have people come in my room in the middle of the night, or early morning to take my clothes off and throw a diaper on me after putting a wet wash cloth down on my manhood and where the “Good Lord” split me.
I try to prioritize what to do from 6 to 10:30; specifically who to do cares with. Some people don’t care when they get up; others want to get up early; and others have family members that have specifically requested to my unit manager that it be made official on the daily care plan when they want mom or dad up.
I try to get to my first three planned residents done after filling 18 cups with ice water plus 2 honey and nectar thickened waters. But there are the usual interruptions. It usually begins when JL is trying to get to the bathroom, even though he has been classified as a fall risk-which is pretty much the main reason many folks like him are in this place. Old age brings about confusion, dementia, and a deteriorating body that doesn’t want to cooperate with them. JL’s personal and pressure alarm is screeching at high-volume, the alert that there is an old man who is about to have a dangerous accident.
RW is crying and repeatedly saying “help me, help me” and “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” Usually when I enter the room and get her bed light on, she has her hip protectors and her incontinence pad around her ankles, sometimes filled with waste, sometimes not. She lays naked and confused in her bed having a hard time with what life she has left. Her husband David is a very loving and patient man that comes to see her everyday (something that can’t be said for other residents who would love nothing more than their children to give a shit about them and stop by to visit). But every once in a while, when she gets stuck in a rut of words and thought, tries to get out of her Broda chair and gets angry, David buries his face in his hands and sobs. This is not the same woman he married fifty-years ago, and it hurts when another human being you have been through good times and bad with is becoming a mere shadow of what they once were.
RM was a man of the earth: the consummate Wisconsin dairy farmer who, since taking up residence at DHC, has had to sell the farm he worked decades to preserve. His wife J is there to visit everyday and to make sure that we are doing our job right. I like and respect that woman, and make sure that he, like everyone else, is getting the best care that this body and soul of mine can exert. J has had to move into a tiny apartment in town because our illustrious leaders in Washington over the years have made sure that we get screwed when it comes to decent, affordable health care. After having had three consecutive strokes and being hit with Parkinson’s disease, he is spooned twice a day via applesauce the plethora of drugs manufactured by the same soulless bastards that cost him house and livelihood to begin with.
RM has the ability to pick up a spoon with his left arm and bring oatmeal to his mouth, but swallowing it is a whole different matter: as hard as he tries, a lot of it runs down his chin and on the towel covering the clean shirt that I had put on for him a little while ago. He isn’t able to say much-his main source of communication is low-pitched growling-but I know just from looking at him that he is frustrated. The man can’t sit up straight, can’t walk, and can’t move his head so the demands of ADL’s must exhaust him to no end. When not in bed, he sits slumped in his wheelchair watching the world goes by.
FJ slaps. MH babbles. RB sings the Lord’s Prayer in German all day, every day. MA screams and moans, for she gets upset just from being awake. She lies in her bed or in her reclining wheelchair in a contracted fetal position all day.
JW is A&O x3 (alert and oriented to time, place, and events). He, like many of these folks, is a WWII vet, and often tells me about life in America as a soldier, a husband, a father and as an old man. He also has some really good dirty jokes. And funny observations: one day he told me that the incontinence pads we change for him reminded him of a cheap hotel-“…no ballroom.” So why is he here at DHC? Due to a bad course of diabetes, he had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. He’s able to catch himself when he needs to void, but has to roll from one side of his bed to the other as someone else helps him with his bowel movements. He’s uncomfortable talking about it and having to have someone else take care of it for him.
To be continued.