Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- Angry All the Time

When the social worker came into his room to do her quarterly assessment, she asked him what the date was today.  He raised up on an elbow, glared at her and said "If you don't know what f**king day it is, what the hell are you doing in my room? Go look on a g**damned calendar!"

The nurse practitioner says she thinks he's depressed but his nurse says "There's nothing wrong with him. He's just a grumpy old man, that's all."

I look at the chart. It says he can't walk because he has sores on his heels that won't heal. He's diabetic. He has dementia and he's only in his early 70s. His demographics say he has a graduate degree and worked in accounting.

The social worker says "Good luck!"

The first time I walk in his room, he's asleep. A frail, white-haired man with baby-smooth cheeks and a death-pale complexion.

They bring his lunch tray but he doesn't wake up.

I circle the hall. I walk in on one of my patients and find him covered in feces, his colostomy bag split open. It's all he can do to press his call button and I wonder how it is his lunch tray can be so recently placed before him without anyone noticing his distress.

I talk to another patient who tells me he's been shot in Korea and is a prisoner of war.

I visit a man who's lost his wife and hopes his daughter will sign a release to let him leave the facility to have lunch with his buddies. "She's a little over-protective," he says, sighing.

I walk back into the grumpy old man's room and find him awake, staring at me with intense gray eyes, his expression unreadable.

I adopt my cheerful fairy godmother face. I'm just here to check in and see how he's doing.  He stares at me, gives me a quarter-smile so phony and angry it takes my breath away. So, I cut the crap.

"Are you depressed?" I ask.

A simple "yes."

Every time I ask a question there's a long, empty space before the words come out, as if he resents himself for humoring me.

He liked to read before he came into the nursing home. He enjoyed mysteries. "A forensic writer," he says. "I can't remember her name."

"Patricia Cornwell?"

I get my first somewhat genuine smile.

"She went to Davidson," he tells me.

"Did you?"

"No. I couldn't afford it."

"So, where'd you go to graduate school?" I ask. I'm not so much needing to know as I am out of gas. Part of me stands there talking while the rest of me just wants to run out of the nursing home and never, ever come back.

"Union Seminary," he says.

Seminary? He's a Presbyterian minister...really?

"Were you ordained?" I stumble.

Long silence. "Yes."

"Did you have a church?"

Another long pause. "Yes."

I nod. Okay. He's been where I am. He's been where all of us are and now he's on the other side, stuck in a bed while unhelpful helper types pigeonhole him and patronize him with questions about his hobbies and today's date. No f**king wonder he's angry.


LBDDiaries said...

I hate reading these stories. I love reading these stories. I hate that you work there but you express their stories so clearly. You are their voice. And it hurts. I hate callous workers most of all. You are an amazing writer.

Nancy said...

Thanks,LBD, I hate it all too!