Break It Down IV

Lunch time in a long-term care home. It sometimes feels like we’re rounding up the herd for a feeding frenzy of food – that quite frankly – looks like it could belong in a sty. I mentioned in previous posts the different types of food we serve, right? Puree (imagine salad and roast beef that’s been put through a blender) minced and of course regular.

I’ll admit it – I’ve eaten it. NO, not the puree for crying out loud, but the regular meals and for the most part they’re not bad. If anything they can tend to lean toward the bland side but I just add salt and it’s fine. What really stinks – I think – is how the staff is required to by a meal if we even want any. I get it. The food is here for the residents and they are ALWAYS our number one priority. But after they’ve eaten and any room trays that need to be prepared have been done, why can’t we have the left overs? Do you know what happens to left overs? They get thrown out, everything. I think it’s a terrible waste of food but c’est la vie.

Lunch time – like breakfast and I’m assuming dinner (I haven’t worked the dinner shift yet) – usually goes pretty smoothly if we all stick to the routine. Depending on the day, a certain table gets served first. I’m telling you, on occasion it really is like dealing with a 5-year-old child. “Why re they getting served first! They got served first last week! GIVE ME TEA!”. Forget the please and thank yous, forget any and all logic you might be tempted to use. REMEMBER: For the most part, I am dealing with individuals that are no longer capable of dealing with reason and logic. Arguing would be useless and it would only frustrate both parties. SO, we have a schedule, and depending on the day, a certain table gets to be served first.

2 options. Yep, that’s all there is. This generally consists of 2 meat options, 2 veggie options and potato. Sometimes fish is served, or a pasta dish or salad. The variety over all is fairly decent, but there are some days where I seriously wonder who’s thinking up these menu ideas.

For instance: Today we have lamp chops or roast beef. These lamb chops were mainly bone, I don’t recall one resident who didn’t have a complaint. Do the cooks not realize that these people are depending on artificial teeth to chew this stuff? That perhaps their over all strength isn’t as good as it used to be so attempting to cut a leather-like slab of roast beef with a butter knife isn’t going to do it?

It’s not just me wondering this, my residents have expressed their opinions as well and I don’t know why something hasn’t been done about it yet.

1 hour. Thats how much time we have to get people seated, fed, and out. Yeah, we run a tight ship. I try to stay after lunch and help clean tables but depending on the day and what I still need to get done, sometimes I can’t do it.

At least we have apple pie for dessert. Mmmmmm.

A little break in routine never hurt anyone.


I look up from the coffee and tea I’ve started to serve in the dining room and frantically look around. Code blue is choking and if it’s called you know it’s serious. Who’s choking?! Oh crap. My resident, ofcourse.

“Call CODE BLUE!” The nurse yells and my co-worker runs frantically to make the call. My resident is red. Oh boy are they red and not breathing or coughing. This isn’t good at all. The nurse is starting abdominal thrusts and I run over to see if there’s anything I can do. I’m stronger than her – her words, NOT mine – so she asks me to take over. Are you shitting me? I know I learned this stuff in school but I never ever expected to have to use it.

“Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die” I say on repeat in my head. On the outside I’m calm and collected and apparently know what I’m doing, but the inside feels like I’m tumbling around inside a washing machine.

Coughing! He’s coughing! OH, thank God. By this time our RNs and other RPNs have come on to the floor. Are they ok? They seem ok, “Are you ok?” Wow. They’re still coughing, what did they choke on?! Pills. Well, I guess it’s applesauce now until further notice. … pills are crushed and put into applesauce – or yogurt – if they can’t be taken whole. Normally they can take them whole, but something happened today.

They’re not very pleased with having to be put on a minced diet until the dietician can evaluate them. I’d be pissed too, it’s not at all appealing to look at. .. but there’s something still wrong. They say they’re fine but they don’t look themselves. I’ve been taking care of you for 2 years and this is not normal. You look almost stunned… half asleep. You’re asked if you’d like to go to the hospital and you agree.

Alright. Don’t judge me. But when we have to call the EMS services I get a little giddy. Firemen and ambulence dudes in uniform are delightful and add a little excitement to my day. Usually they send women – weird luck of the draw – but today we get 3 firemen and 2 EMS guys. FIVE! So exciting.

They’re talking to my resident and asking if they remember anything and they don’t. They don’t remember choking and they have no idea why all these people are in their room. I knew something wasn’t right.

Very rarely do we have days like this, but they happen and you have to be prepared for them. I don’t know how I knew what I was doing but I guess when you need to do it you just remember automatically. Kind of like riding a bike. … something else I haven’t done in ages. I wonder if I’d fall off.

Break It Down III

Sometimes I wish my breaks were longer than half an hour. This just isn’t sufficient time to do a crossword, drink my coffee and take a nap. Only a little after 10 and I need a nap? Yes, I’ve been up since 5 and on my feet non stop since 7. I dream about crawling into a resident’s bed after I’ve made it. Some of their blankets and pillows and sheets are so crisp and clean and so warm. The temptation is really strong. …. but then you stop and think and it dawns on you that these are the same beds and linens that have experienced incontinence with both bowels and urine, vomit, C Diff and Lord know what else. … I guess I’ll stick to napping on the subway (because no one’s ever had incontinence or vomit issues THERE, right?).

I check my residents first just to see if anyone needs to be changed before lunch & most of which do. There are the odd few who can toilet on their own so I go around and remind them to do so. If anyone’s gone already, I ask what it is they did.

Stop looking at me with such disgusted looks. You do the exact same thing when you go to the bathroom, only you don’t think about it. Well, think about it: You know your body better than anyone else. You know what you ingest – most of the time – and you know what comes out. If something is off, you notice it don’t you? Don’t lie to me. Don’t look so embarrassed. And if something is on going and concerning you go to the doctors don’t you? Well, remember. These are people who are no longer capable of doing this. A PSW must take note of all bodily functions and report anything new or worrisome to the nurse. This mainly applies to residents that I must change as residents who can toilet themselves can also report to the nurse themselves. Still, I am here to make sure 🙂

Elton John’s Daniel is on the radio. I kind of like this song. I sing a long to it while I get my supplies ready. One resident of mine is bed ridden and they ALWAYS have the radio on. For some reason, singing a long to Elton John and Beyonce really moves the work a long quicker. … sometimes I even dance. I look pretty awesome with my scrubs, rubber gloves and pink crocs on.

Almost lunch time. Depending on what they have I may just buy something…

Break It Down II

Oh breakfast. The smell of toast, eggs and coffee. You’d think I wouldn’t eat food cooked in a nursing home, but I do. … Ok, so we’re NOT supposed to, technically. But after running around for 1.5 hours you get hungry! I always have another coffee in my own mug that I keep hidden so no one else will use it.

Alright, first things first. Not everyone is here yet but since I’m early I can get things started. After working here a while I’ve become accustomed to my residents and knowing their preferences, so I know who likes cereal or porridge. I hate porridge, I think it has the consistency of warm boogers (which I don’t tell my residents or Lord know what would happen) so that’s all them. While residents are eating their porridge or cereal, we serve tea and coffee. … Oh… what the, what smells so good? Not the coffee….

That explains it. The dietary boss is here and he wears this cologne that’s just… wow. Hey. Don’t look at me like that, I’m a woman, I like men, so when I smell a nice man I get distracted. You would too, don’t lie to me. Anyway, moving on. Every now and then they’ll come up here to check up on things and make sure that meals are being served properly and to the right people. NEVER drink your own coffee or eat while working in the dining room. Common sense, right? Yeah, not so common. Do your work first, THEN take your coffee and go on break. If your caught doing this you’re toast (pun intended, HA!).

On the menu today and every day we have a variety to choose from – ranging from regular, minced and puree. Yep, we do it all. If someone is on a regular diet, well, they eat like you or I would. If someone is on a minced diet, their food is prepared exactly how it is suggested: minced. Bread is served NOT toasted and with the crust cut off. Puree is baby food, plain and simple. It looks disgusting and I feel sorry for anyone who has to eat it. Thankfully, for the few that do eat it, they’re a point in their life where they either don’t care or don’t know the difference. Now WHY do we serve such a variety you might ask? Some residents have swallowing problems (in this case, we thicken fluids to reduce choking) and some residents have no teeth and have trouble chewing with their dentures.

We usually finish breakfast around 9:30, give or take 10 minutes. If I have the time I’ll help out in the dining room by clearing the tables and wiping them down but if I know I have a busy morning a head I get started ASAP. ESPECIALLY on shower days. Residents are on a shower schedule, giving them each a minimum of 2 showers a week. Don’t look disgusted. Just because they’re not in an actual shower or bath doesn’t mean they don’t get cleaned on a daily basis. Residents in a nursing home or retirement home are probably the cleanest people you will ever meet. The amount of face cloths, peri cloths and diapers I go through on a daily basis is ridiculous. We also have lovely laundry facilities 🙂

When should I take my break? Well, I make my own break time based on what I have going on that day. So long as there is always one PSW on the floor, when I take my break is totally up to me. After breakfast, if I don’t have any showers to do I make my beds and check on my residents to make sure they don’t need changing yet.

Maybe I will go on break. I need coffee.