Working On Our Night Moves

Bob Segar isn’t a bad way to start off a post now is it? If it is, then perhaps I don’t want you reading this.
I kid.

The last time I worked a 3-11 shift was over 3 years ago when I was just starting out on my journey as a PSW. As mentioned previously, I used to work for agencies so my shifts were all over the place. Generally speaking, I dislike that time frame. I’m an early riser so trying to kill time until the middle of the afternoon is difficult. And since I’ve been up early, I tend to want to go to sleep early, so staying up past 11 isn’t easy either. However, since I am in no position to turn down shifts I’ll take what ever is offered to me, including the afternoon shift.

It was definitely a change from the crazy morning rush that I’m used to. When I got into work at 3 I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. My residents were either napping or par-taking in activities. Unless someone requested to go to the bathroom, I didn’t take them because I knew they had just been changed prior to the AM shift’s departure. So. What do I do?
I organized. Yep. Dinner time was 5:30 so until then I organized my cart and some of my resident’s closets. I really don’t like it when the laundry is delivered and things are just dumped in the closet. Since when do people store under garments in the closet? Really?  Little things like that annoy me because you know it’s being done out of nothing but laziness. If your job is laundry, than do it properly! But I digress.

The afternoon shift is tougher in the sense that there are only 2 PSWs so we each have roughly 15 residents each to care for. It sounds daunting, but most of which aren’t total care, meaning that they can do most things themselves. Of all the residents I was looking after I only had 5 that were total care, the rest being assistance based.

I enjoy dinner. They serve soup at dinner. The soup that evening happened to be cream of celery so needless to say I wasn’t interested.

Bed time.  It starts early. Like 6:30-7 early. I can understand though. I you’ve been up since 7am and played a rousing game of Bingo throughout the day, who wouldn’t want an early night in? Of course not everyone does. I can’t MAKE people go to sleep. But I CAN trick them into getting into their pajamas and washed up, that way when they do decide to sleep they’re ready. Yes, I used the word “trick”. A word you may have noticed I use often. Sometimes it’s the only way to do it. Once I got started, making a routine to get everything done on time was a piece of cake. In fact, I was done by 9:30!

Or so I thought.

When someone gets diarrhea, it doesn’t really concern them that it’s 1 hour until I get to leave and all I want to do is relax and watch Criminal Minds. Their body had plans to release its content all over the bedroom floor and in the process, getting some on my pants and shoes.

It’s just not worth it unless you get feces on yourself.

It’s disgusting, but I love my job.

Even the 3-11 shift.

 

What Once Was.

Walking into the lobby, I wasn’t sure what to expect once I asked where abouts my aunt was. She’s been living here since October and it’s only now – 8 months later in July – that I am coming to visit her. I don’t like this place. It’s not nearly as warm an inviting as the home I work in. It has a very hospital-like atmosphere with 2 person rooms, privacy provided by nothing but a curtain and medicine carts scattered in the halls. The walls are white and the stench of urine is prominent. This isn’t the first class in nursing home facilities but it’ll do. I’m not even sure if she knows the difference. I have no idea if she’ll even recognize me.

When I reach the second floor I ask for her room and I walk towards it not sure what to expect. I feel nervous, sad and a touch of guilt taps lightly on my shoulder.

She isn’t there. Huh.

I wish these rooms were more personalized. I wish there was more than a puke-yellow curtain separating the beds. I wish she wasn’t here.

She sits in the living room, surrounded by other residents waiting for some sort of recreation activity to occur. I don’t recognize this woman. This strong, beautiful, old-school Italian woman who used to shove baked goods down my throat at any chance. Her hair is graying, but a hint of strawberry blond still remains. She’s a lot thinner, and sitting in a wheel chair looking out in this room and I wonder if she has any idea where she is. There isn’t plastic covering the furniture. Clearly not an Italian living room.

Oddly enough upon approaching her I find myself speaking in Italian to her. Simple phrases, but enough that it gets through and I’m fairly certain that she recognizes me. I tell her my name, who my father and grandmother are and she smiles. Her voice is quiet so I lean to hear and she asks how my Nonna is. Tutto è buono, Nonna è buono. Weird, I can actually speak this language.

I tell her I’ll come to visit her again and as I wait for the elevator I blow her a kiss and she reaches out to catch it.

Yes, I work in a nursing home and yes, I see residents of this magnitude all the time. But they aren’t my mom, my sister, my aunt or my grandma. I only know these people as Jane who has dementia. Tom who suffers from Alzheimer’s and Bipolar Disorder.

I never knew these people prior to them coming in. When you know someone, and know how they once were, seeing them in this completely different life is difficult. I fully understand why some family members don’t come to see their loved ones. It’s not because they’re evil, it’s because they’re scared. They’re guilty. They’re sad. My sympathies are with everyone who’s ever had to admit someone into a nursing home. They’re not selfish. They’re courageous.