Nursing Homes

I used to walk through nursing homes with a smile on my face. I'd look all the residents in the eyes, grin a little wider and say hello cheerfully. I'd flirt with the old men playfully and chat up the nurses while getting some signatures.

"Help me, please, somebody help me," I heard from room 23. I imagine a little old lady who has fallen and hurt herself, or perhaps needs help getting to the bathroom. A nurse stands outside the door, looking at a chart as she picks her nails. I hear the woman again, begging for someone to help her.

"What can I do for you," I ask as I peek my head in the room. She's straining to reach her cup of water that's just out of her reach.
"Oh, I just want some of that water from the cup right there." I step outside and ask the nurse if she's allowed to have the water--I just want to make sure she's not NPO. I get the go ahead, so I step back inside.
"Let me get that for you," I say as I fill it up a bit before giving it to her.
"Oh thank you so much," she says, "thank you, thank you."

I walk back out of the room and stare at the CNA with disgust.
"She just wanted water," I say as I leave, although I'm not sure she cares.

My partner finds me and we start to head out. A man in a walker approaches me and reaches his hand out for my face.
"Molly? Molly I've missed you so much."
"Oh, I'm..."
"Oh Molly, I'm so glad you're here."

I evade his touch as I try to keep up with the gurney, my stomach twisting in knots. My partner makes a joke about what just happen, but I don't laugh--I just keep walking.

We get in the ambulance and he asks me what's bugging me.
"Water," I say curtly.
"Water. All she wanted was a fucking cup of water."
"Oh. Well I'm sure her nurse was getting to it."
"You don't understand. She just wanted some fucking water." I spit the words out with disgust, the t's and f's hitting harshly as they escape my mouth.
"Yeah. I hate nursing homes."

I don't smile anymore. I don't look at the patients, their mouths hanging open and their eyes staring at nothing. I don't talk to the nurses except to get a signature or two. I just stare at my feet as I walk by. I breathe through my mouth to escape the smell and I think about the books I want to read or the movies I want to see.

I don't think about my mom or my dad in one of those beds in a room occupied by a vacant stranger. I don't think about the families that never visit. I don't think about my children saying, "Mom, we just can't take care of you anymore. We want to put you in a home."

I think about writing my book, about where I'd like to go on a date, about my junior year in college. I think young thoughts and it hurts me inside.

"I could never do it," I say to my partner the next day.
"Do what?"
"Be in a home."
"Well, you probably won't have much say in it if you lose your mind."
"Nope. I'm offing myself. If I'm ever enough of a burden to someone that they would put me in a home, I just want someone to put a gun in my hand, point it at my temple and say, 'shoot.'"
"I made my wife promise me that a long time ago."
"Are we sick?"
"No. We just see it every day and we know it a little bit," he pauses, "differently."
"I guess."

My first patient in the ER is groaning as the nurse keeps him on his side.
"That's the biggest decube I've ever seen," my preceptor whispers to me.
"Where did that come from?" She looks at the chart and nods.
"Nursing home neglect. They left the temporary foley in for two-ish weeks."
"And the decube...they didn't turn him?"

I want to vomit. I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to drive to the nursing home, find his "nurse," and beat the shit out of her. I want her to feel the pain that he feels every day, but I know it won't be the same. She can take care of herself, even beaten all to hell. He can't even turn himself in bed, let alone tend to his wounds.

And so I swallow back another set of feelings as I go off to find my next patient.


Fyremandoug said...

I worked in A nursing Home for 3 years in building maintenance and there were days I didn't want to go to work and days I would come home and cry, My favorite resident was a lady on the Locked ward...Alice, I would sneak her a bag of salted peanuts every other day, One day I came in and Alice had passed away from complications from shingles...?
I would rather go live with the wolves than in a home....

Scott said...

Yes, it is very sad. Except in the cases of true neglect, many nursing homes seem to have uncaring staff from the outside, but the story sometimes changes when you are on the inside. It is a hard job, and when I get my RN, I am going to stay as far away from geriatrics as I possibly can. Dementia breaks my heart.

Evil Lunch Lady said...

My MIL was in a home, they kept messing up her O2, sent her to the ER for mild nosebleeds (because she didn't have any water in her O2 machine, and we visited her multible times per week) it was BAD. I offered to quit my job and stay at her house etc. But my sister in laws didn't want any part of that. I regret it to this day. I hope they do too.

Beaker said...

My mom, a nurse, once told me I should tie rocks to her legs and throw her off a bridge before putting her in a nursing home... I didn't understand why.

After becoming an EMT I do.

Chris said...

Don't ever stop being angry at things like this Sam

Epijunky said...

I understand completely.

McHottie and I have a mutual pact if the either one of us ever needs to go in... the other will take them for a long drive.

Still, it's so sad.