Popcorn & A Movie?

 

When I first started working in homecare I had this ill pre conceived notion that it would be easier. Our clients may have an advantage physically, which in turn means that the chances of us cleaning up soiled linen is slim. However, the emotional load is something  that I was inadequately prepared for.

I’m visiting folks who for the most part are potentially preparing for their next life in LTC. When living at home becomes too much a care facility is often the next daunting step. As a PSW, I’m privy to the intimacy’s of their thoughts pertaining to this daunting change:

The husband who has severe guilt with the inevitability of his wife leaving him for a care facility. Not because he DOESN’T WANT to take care of her, but because her illness has digressed so severely over the last 6 months that neither of them can cope anymore. That damn brain tumour that just won’t stop growing has stolen both of their lives. And I watched it slowly do so.

The single mom, who with two kids, has no social life because she spends 24 hours a day caring for her severely disabled teenage son. Maybe if the seizures were more predictable she could leave him on his own for just 10 minutes to take in the sun that shines outside their window.

When working in LTC, I wasn’t privy to ANY of this. All of this had already happened. I was solely there for the aftermath of the hurricane that left a family in ruins. Many, many family’s.

So if working in LTC is the movie, then working in the community is the prequel to this million dollar blockbuster.

 

The Decision.

I either just did something really dumb or really smart. Either way, I’m confident with the path I have chosen and can already feel the stress and tension lift off my shoulders.

I quit my job.

Guess which one. I’ll give you a hint. Remember a while back when I went on a rant about homecare and about how much I loathed it? Yeah, NOT that one.

I gave in my 2 weeks notice for my casual position at the long term care facility. I’ll tell you why, because there might be a lot of you out there in a similar boat.

I love LTC. And until now I thought that was where I was supposed to be. And who knows, maybe in the future I’ll be back there again. But for now it isn’t worth it. I have FULL TIME hours while working in homecare. Why am I working another job ON TOP of that? Why am I exhausting myself with 16 hour days when I don’t need to be? It finally got to me and something had to be done. So I made the decision to let go of the job that wasn’t getting me further. I had been told when I was hired last July that getting a part-time or even full-time line would come easy and that I should have one by September. It’s almost February and I’m tired.
Despite my moaning I’ve come to enjoy homecare. I can more or less chose my hours and the work load isn’t as heavy as in LTC. I worked in LTC for almost 6 years. I think it was time for a change. I don’t want to worry about 2 jobs and balancing them both. It isn’t worth my sanity & it isn’t worth the extra $300 or so I’d be bringing in every 2 weeks. There are A LOT of things in life far more important than money and work. I intend to enjoy it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this job is that life goes by pretty damn fast.

No body on their death bed has ever said “I wish I worked MORE”.

Heat Wave.

Come January you will not hear me complain about the cold. I may have a few choice words regarding the snow & it’s nasty ambition to destroy my commute, but otherwise I’m quiet. Come July… or in this case, today, May 28th, I’m a bitch. I’ll be honest. The heat and me do NOT get a long. At least, not while I’m in the city breathing in smog & working in what to me feels like a sauna. And it’s this time of year – whether you’re a beach babe or not – that you, as a working PSW need to be careful.

Now, I can’t speak for EVERY work place, but I can tell you that mine is unbearably hot at times. In my personal opinion, it’s because they’re cheap (let’s face it, in most cases this is true) so they won’t turn on the AC until June or July. To cope, I drink copious amounts of water. A lot of my co workers make fun of me because A) I LOVE ice water, even in winter & B) I drink so much that they worry they’ll have to give me an incontinence product to wear. But in all seriousness, keeping hydrated is a MUST while you’re working, especially in the summer. NOT pop (hello dehydrating sugar fluid) but water. Even flavoured water, with lemons, limes, cucumbers, mint, etc. Push yourself to drink it and you’ll find yourself not quite as bitchy.

Take your breaks. Sweltering summer weather is not the time to be a hero and work straight through the 8 hour shift. Co ordinate with co workers so that you all have time to leave the floor and catch a breather. Remember that thing… what’s it called, oh, TEAM WORK, that I’m always on about? Now’s another good time to use it.

And obviously, make sure that your residents are as comfortable as they can be.

For more information on how NOT to die in the summer heat, check out St. John’s Ambulance page on Heat Exhaustion & Sun Stroke Prevention

Six Feet Under.

Waiting for death is an awfully tiresome experience. Not knowing when they’re going to go. Not knowing if this breath will be their last – despite  the use of an oxygen tank. They’re no longer responsive to your voice. Your touch. It’s like you’re holding the hands of an empty shell whose soul has already departed. But you can’t properly grieve because their body is – for all intents and purposes – alive. Not living, but existing. In a never-ending time capsule that won’t open.

I watch this every day. 2 beautiful souls who were once so vibrant with life lie motionless in a single bed. I no longer get hit on. I no longer see their smiles when I walk into work. Their jokes aren’t being told to anyone.

It’s hard. Being a PSW and dealing with all the things that come with this position doesn’t mean that I’m completely devoid of emotion. It is excruciating to watch someone die a slow a death. As awful as it sounds, I find myself wishing for death to hurry up and take them. Their quality of life is nonexistent.

The hardest part for me is watching their family members. Not only seeing them cry, but watching them slowly lose every ounce of sanity they have left trying to keep it together. Frustration and anger take over, asking over and over why they can’t do anything to help.

One of them is going to go this week. The waiting game, even while at home and in my pajamas plagues me. Dealing with death once it happens is far easier than dealing with its disturbing game of trickery.

Why Breaking The Rules Isn’t Always A Good Idea

Good Morning PSWs,  fellow bloggers & faithful readers.

I know, these updates are coming further & further a part. Life is hectic! Work is hectic! But in a wonderful way. I have been picking up short shifts on my unit – 5pm-9pm – which helps out the full timers during the evening. How long did it take for this to finally happen? If you ask me, TOO. FRIGGEN. LONG. It upsets me that in order to see some action something has to happen before hand. PROACTIVENESS not REACTIVENESS is what we need. The afternoon shift consists of 2 PSWs for 28 residents. Really? This is fair? THIS DOESN’T SOUND AT ALL REDICULOUS TO YOU?! Pardon my caps-lock rage.  So the needless to say the extra help is much-needed. And it’s an”easy” 4 hours for me.

The extra help is needed for a lot of reasons, but I am going to talk about one very important one right now: the use of mechanical lifts. Do you have any idea how many transfers a PSW can make a day? I’m going to say close to 10. In fact, that might be generous. And what’s even more difficult is that a PSW cannot and SHOULD NOT make these transfers alone. But you know what? A lot of us do. Why? Convenience. When you have 2 PSWs attempting to put residents to bed or to the toilet, sometimes you’re left waiting 20 minutes before your co-worker is able to help you.

I have a point, I promise.

NEVER. USE. A. MECHANICAL LIFT. ALONE.

Do you understand me? It is NOT your fault that your facility chooses to understaff. It is NOT your fault that your coworkers are also extremely busy. So you know what? If you’re late for breakfast because you had to wait for a help with transferring, so be it. I would rather you be late than fired. Or hurt. OR your resident gets hurt.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Being fired is the LEAST of your worries should something happen to your resident while using a lift a lone. Should said resident get hurt & die of said injuries you are going to jail. That’s right, pack up your cigarettes for currency because you are going to need it.

This is serious. Your job is serious. As a PSW we take care of and are responsible for an extremely vulnerable sector of society. If you can’t remember this or chose not to care, then perhaps you should start looking for a new career. Stat.

Tidbits.

20 minutes into my shift this past Thursday my resident was found lying naked on his bedroom floor and unresponsive. He was sent to the hospital and returned later that same day. He seems to be himself again but we’re still monitoring him. It’s especially difficult as he is HIS OWN POA (power of attorney) so trying to convince him otherwise is like pulling teeth. With no give.

For some reason, some residents do not like to keep their incontinence products on. That was the polite way of saying diaper. In a way I can understand. What adult wants to wear this & admit to themselves that they can no longer control their out out? The answer you’re looking for is  NO ONE. However, this resident I speak of has dementia to some degree so when he takes them off – almost constantly – he does so because he insists that I – or another PSW – told him to. That or Jesus. Jesus shows up at a lot of convenient times. Do I have time to constantly keep an eye out for one resident to make sure they aren’t urinating in the dining room? No. Do I make the time? Yes.

She wanted to know how to catch the bus to go to Montreal to see her mother. The fact that all of this is taking place in Toronto is irrelevant, to her, we are in QB. I told her the buses weren’t running today. 10 minutes later I told her the elevators were broken. 10 minutes later someone else told her her mother was dead. This didn’t have much of the effect that we thought it would. 10 minutes later she still wanted to call her mother. The phones were broken.

When someone asks me why they are still alive, the only reason I can think of is that it simply isn’t their time yet. I don’t know why you are still here. There is a divine plan – as I like to believe – and when it is time, you will go. The elderly person’s relationship to death fascinates me. I guess it’s because at a mere 28 years old, the concept is slightly foreign to me, not mention terrifying. But you’e no close friends left and you’re days are spent on constant bed rest, what exactly is it you’re living for? I believe there is always a reason, even if we don’t realize it right away.

There were 2 dozen pigeons by my resident’s foot the other day. I didn’t see any, and the mentioned resident is blind. But to her, in her mind, they were there and they were terrifying. So I did what any other PSW would do: I got her out of the way of danger and promised her that those birds would be gone by the time she returned to her room after lunch. This comforted her, until, ofcourse, she saw a big dog in the lunch room.

I am happy to be home on a Saturday night, telling you all this from the comfort of my couch while wearing pajamas. This is a normal day at work for a PSW. Everyone’s “normalcy” is different.

A Party For Two.

It is March Break, was anyone else aware of that? The only reason I know is because I have extra shifts this week on account of this lovely holiday. It’s been so long since I counted down the days since New Years to that wonderous week off from everything. March Breaks, long weekends, all of these things disappear once in healthcare. You get used to it believe it or not.

We were short-staffed today at work. Someone called in sick, so for 4 hours we had 3 PSWs on the unit, and for the other 4 only 2 of us remained. 2 PSWs for 30 residents.

This is a regular occurence. It happens more than I’d like to admit and unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done about it. It’s about money, it’s always about money. It isn’t about senior care and it certainly isn’t about quality of care either. It’s disgusting and it’s wrong. Should the unthinkable happen, what are we to do? There’s a fire. The entire floor has the flu. I am helping my co-worker toilet a resident with a hoyer lift when another resident has a fall. We haven’t got eyes everywhere yet we are punished as if we should have. If we call in sick we’re asked a million questions why. If we come into work sick we’re sent home and told not to have come in the first place.

A PSW life isn’t easy.

My seniors keep me going.

I do this for them. No one else.

How NOT To Use A Kidney Basin.

Any suggestions from the floor regarding the title of this here post? C’mon, take a guess. Any guess will do. There are no WRONG guesses here folks! For those not in the know, a kidney basin is a small plastic container in the shape of a kidney bean. The ones we have at work are a greenish-blue colour but I’m sure they have other varieties. Regardless of its appearance, it’s purpose is to collect soiled dressings and any other such medical waste. I have a resident who likes to carry one around with him in case he coughs and needs to spit up. Fair enough. Spitting on the floor isn’t an acceptable behaviour.

That being said, I found his kidney basin today in a place it shouldn’t have been, with something in it that shouldn’t have been there. It was 2:45, 15 minutes before the end of my shift and as I was doing my rounds I came across his little beanie container with feces in it. Underneath a chair in the hall way. Nice, right?

This resident in particular is a challenge for me and all the staff who have worked with him. He has moments where his cognitive abilities are non-existent, but he also has moments when he’s completely lucid and understands full well what it is he is doing. Dealing with a bi-polar-like illness such as dementia is not an easy task. How do you tell this individual that what he did was wrong and not to do it again? You do it exactly like that: What you did was wrong, please use a toilet the next time you have to go.

But what if when you attempt to say this he is in a frame of mind that doesn’t understand? In this case, you say nothing. When dealing with an illogical illness, you cannot – as the caregiver – attempt to find a logical solution. It isn’t there. It will never be there. You are in an ongoing battle with an illness that knows no bounds. It fears no one. And it plays tricks better than any magician on the planet.

So I put on my gloves, put my big girl PSW game face on and I picked it up. And I threw it out.

I work in a nursing home.

So how was your day?

Ugh, I’m sick.

Friday of the long weekend. Thanksgiving is upon us, the scent of turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie will soon be dancing under all our noses begging us to taste.

Well, most of us anyway. I’ll be lucky if I can taste anything this weekend. I have a cold.

What? A cold isn’t a big deal? It’s just the sniffles? A tiny cough? A sore throat that can be cleared with cough drops? Who are you people? Because if you sincerely believe this – and I know you’re out there, I’ve talked to you – then clearly you’ve never been sick. When I get sick, I die. I get the fever, the aches and pains, the inability to breath through my nose, the sore throat – but sore as in someone is raking a cheese grater against it’s walls – no sleep, etc, etc, ETC. I’m not writing this to gain sympathy – yeah ok, maybe a part of me is – but just to tell the world that the common cold is in fact a very big deal.

This stinks! I’ve been home for a week. I’ve missed work which I HATE to do. And it sucks even more because the job I do requires me to be healthy.

If I was to go into the nursing home like this it’d be like the plague taking over. Viruses spread like wild fire amongst the elderly and I do not want to be the cause of that. Which is why it aches me to call in sick for tomorrow. I don’t want to. I really want to work, I’m bored at home with the internet and constant Friends reruns! I want to go out! But I can’t.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Don’t get sick. WASH YOUR HANDS!!!