4/19/2007

I Want to Run Away From The Home...

Working in the nursing homes is getting to me. I can tell by the way I drag over to each home now, as if I, too, am growing older with each visit. It seems the staff cares less than they did when I started but how can that be?

Maybe it's that the good ones always leave- the lively, energetic, happy, save-their-corner-of-the-world helpers always leave. And now, secretly, I want to go too.

I hate the paperwork. I hate that every tiny piece of it is analyzed with far more scrutiny than my patients ever receive.

I found Bunny in her room, reading her Bible this morning, trying not to cry.
She points to a splint the physical therapist just put on her arm. "She told me my arm ain't never gonna move no more. Ain't nobody ever told me that. How am I gonna get out of this place, I can't move my arm? Oh, Lord," she moans, her head heavy on the cheap, polyester pillow. "They ain't never told me that."

I want to beat the insensitive therapist. How dare she take away Bunny's hope? Why couldn't she say, "Your left arm just isn't following our plan, now is it, Bunny? But don't you worry, we're going to work extra hard on your right arm. Then we can get you strong enough to pull yourself up in bed. Once we do that, we'll work on the next step."

Was that too much to ask?

So I ask Bunny, "I thought you were working on walking with them?"

"I was," she says, sounding miserable. "But my knee hurt me so bad. I tried it twice but it still hurt and then they gave up on me."

Bunny tells me she's got problems with her blood pressure too. "They're supposed to take it every day, but they don't."

And did she mention she's having problems with her vision? "Sometimes the wall is down there on the floor and the TV's on the ceiling. That happened to me before. I think it's a pill they changed but they don't tell me nothing."

I tell her I think I need to go read her chart. I tell her she knows her body better than anyone else and if she says something changed two months ago, I trust that.

I start reading. I try to make sense of the jargon, the medications I know nothing about, the test results. I'm not sure what's going on. I'll need to talk to the staff. I know I'll never see her doctor, but I don't think much of her anyway. It requires a lot of digging...and I only get paid for face to face time, so the digging is pro bono. For whatever time it takes, I'll make, no joke, about $15.

If I wasn't a single mom, it wouldn't matter but on days when the rent is due, I hate to admit it, but it matters. Not enough to stop me. Today.

I do find one note I understand in Bunny's chart. It's from the physical therapist. It says Bunny's knee hurts because she has gout. It says the doc is putting her on a new gout medicine and they'll re-evaluate her in two weeks.

That was 2 months ago and it never happened. That I can work with. I tell Bunny and promise her I'll tell the social work department. I tell them. I see them write it down. I tell them what they said about Bunny's arm and they look disgusted.

The social workers, I am learning, are young wild asses. They tell me great stories about their men and their take on getting their needs met. They work all day to take care of others but they have no problem getting men to line up to tote their freight after hours. "Honey," one tells me. "Always pay part of the rent. That way, if he gets stupid, you can say 'Hey, I paid my portion!'" She looks at me. "Note, I did not say my half. I said my portion."

I know they will kick some physical therapy ass.

So Bunny is at least going to get on the right road...for today.

I am almost ready to leave when Tabitha, the business office manager, burst in. She closes the door behind her, sits down, clearly agitated and angry.

"Tashya, if you don't help me and Mrs. Winters, I swear somebody's gonna get hurt!"

They put the social work department in a windowless closet on the second floor. The room is no bigger than 6' x 9'. There are three of us now, closed up in this tiny room. Tashya rolls her chair up to Tabitha's and looks right into her eyes. I sink back down into the folding chair, trapped because the two women are between me and the door and I am too interested/nosy now to leave anyway.

"What is it?" Tashya asks Tabitha.

"All Mrs. Winters wants is to get out of her bed. She's hurting so bad, I can't stand it!" Tabitha's eyes well up with tears. "You know how I am about my Mrs. Winters!"

"I know, baby, I know," Tashya soothes.

"That damned aide says they can't get the Hoya lift for her because it's up under Mrs. Smith and her husband says they own that lift. They don't own that lift! I'm gonna beat somebody they don't straighten it out so I came up here to you so I don't get fired for beating somebody's ass!"

I have not been this happy in one of my homes in maybe a year. This is energy. This is concern and caring. Okay, so it's raw and unrefined, but damned if it isn't energy and therefore, hope.

Tashya is itching to leave for the day, but she doesn't. She says, "I'm gonna fix it right now." And she takes Tabitha with her, so she can see the situation get fixed.

I get sidetracked with another problem but as I'm leaving, I see the physical therapy aide leaving the social work closet and she does not look happy. This makes me even happier because I know she just got called down for hurting Bunny's feelings and not following through on her care.

But I still want to quit.

I don't want to watch any more people hurt or cry or give up. I don't want to lose any more of my friends. I don't want to wonder why someone died.

I go to the next home. It is awful. I think about the things I find and correct but I worry more about what I never see, or suspect but can't prove. I wish I were a doctor so I could tell when medical problems aren't handled correctly.

I stop beside Lawrence...the little old man who looks like a plucked, beakless chicken. He is not my patient but I love him. He is mumbling to himself, lost in Alzheimer's, his eyes so rhumey it seems he is always crying.

I touch his bony shoulder, squat down and take the hand he offers. "Hey, Lawrence," I say, as soft as a kiss on his cheek, as if I can convey every touch and hug he needs in a single phrase because I'm fairly certain Lawrence has lost the ability to understand language. "How are you?" I ask.

He gives it right back to me, the same loving glance. He mumbles unintelligibly...but it sounds like "Better." I hold his hand and smile at him. I look into his eyes for a long moment. "Yes," I whisper. "I know, Lawrence, I know."

When I am walking away I hear him, as clear as day. "I love you," he says. "Yes, I do. I know."

I am smiling as I walk away, wishing I didn't want to quit, wishing I didn't have the urge to run right out the front door every time I pass it.

I know I do good here. Last week, when I complained about Bessie's no-account son refusing to get her hair done, two people (okay, Mertis and Marti)immeadiately offered to fund her hair-do cost for a year. It's a small change, I know, but they are making Bessie's life a happier one. That's good.

I know I am being the change I wish to see in the Universe.

I just wish I didn't want to run out that front door and never come back.

1 comment:

Teena said...

It's got to be tough ... my heart goes out to you. My sister works in a guest home similar to yours and I don't know how she does it. She has a huge heart too ... like yours.