Although I'm a nursing aide now, I consider my first day in the medical world to be my first day as a caregiver for elderly folks. At the time, working at CareCo* was just an in-between job, to hold me over until I found something better in social services. After all, I'd taken care of my own grandparents, and one set of dentures is the same as another, right?
After a short training video and a background check, I was on my way to the Golden Gables* retirement campus to meet my first clients, a couple in their 80's named Ginny and Peter Smith **. My Brand New Boss Betty was to meet me there and introduce me to the Smiths, then I would come in and keep them company, maybe tidy up the house a bit, prepare some supper, see them safely into bed, and be on my way. Sounds simple, right?
Only when I pulled into the driveway of their Golden Gables Duplex, Betty hopped out and said "Mr. Smith had a fall, you know how to get to Sacred Heart's ER*, right?". When I shook my head no, startled, she hopped back into her car, calling "Follow me!". Shortly, there I was in an ER exam room with Betty and the Smiths, both of whom looked impossibly skinny, wrinkled, and helpless. Betty handed me the client book with all their info in it, said "Good Luck! Stay with Mr. Smith until he's either sent home or admitted, and then take Mrs. Smith home. She has dementia, so be sure you remember how to get there, because she won't be able to tell you. I'll talk to you tomorrow to figure out your schedule for the week." and walked out the door.
I faced the two people I was now responsible for, wondering what the hell I was supposed to be doing. Over the next few hours, I tried to make polite conversation with Ginny, and keep her and Peter from bothering the nursing staff too much. I tried to distract Ginny to keep her away from Peter long enough that he could have a bowel movement in private in the exam room, in some toilet contraption I'd never seen one of before. And finally, when Peter was admitted, I took Ginny home to her Golden Gardens Duplex that was anything but golden inside; they had a small dog, a cat, and a bird, all of which defecated EVERYWHERE due to neglect. Overwhelmed, I picked up the worst of the poop with my CareCo provided disposable gloves, and sat on the couch with Ginny watching television until the poor woman who was taking over for me arrived.
And astonishingly enough, I went back the next day, and the next. And now, almost a year later, I not only know that toilet contraption is a bedside commode, but how to get someone on and off of one, and how to clean it out when they're done. Without even gagging.
Until next time,
*not the real name
**also not their real names. Nothing in here will be named by real names, so I'll quit it with the footnotes from here on out.
*** okay, one more, I couldn't resist - who else is a Scrubs fan here?