Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Fury of the Little Old Lady

What I love about the generation that's old right now is the deeply ingrained sense of politeness and good language they have. There are exceptions, of course, especially when someone has dementia, but in general? Even when they are LIVID they don't tend to use curse words, and their expressions are antiquated enough to be funny and charming unintentionally.

I don't think the baby boomers are going to be that way. They'll be dropping f-bombs and the like, not exclaiming "Like FUN you will!" indignantly. And that's a shame.

One of my residents at the dementia facility is a perfect example of this cute-when-angry quality. Marla is in her late 80's and on hospice, but only recently became incontinent at night. Up until recently, she'd just use her call light to get up and go to the toilet when she needed to. So Marla is very, very unused to being changed in the night. And during the day, she gets Ativan and all the usual meds that help people remain compliant. But they wear off at night, so Marla gets feisty around 11pm. This means my rounds usually go like this:

I tiptoe into Marla's room, turn on her bathroom light so I can see, and say gently,
"Hi Marla, I need to check your undies, M'am, you can keep sleeing if you like"
I pull back the covers as little as possible and pat her crotch with my gloved hand, to see if her brief is wet or dry. 90% of the time it's wet. Shoot. I get a new one out, wipes, pull the trash can over to me, and ready a new incontinent pad.
"Marla honey, you're wet. We need to get you dried off so you'll stay nice and warm. These panties are wet. I'm going to take them off now."
(Marla groggily bats my hands away)
"Marla, sweetheart, I know you're tired but you're all wet. I'm getting you dry. It'll just take a minute."
(Marla wakes up all the way now, and oooooooh, she's not happy!)
"What in the HELL are you doing? Get outta here! Can't you let a body sleep? Go away! Get OUT!"
"Marla, I know you're tired, but you wet the bed, hon, so I'm getting you clean and dry."
"I did NOT! I've never done that in my LIFE!"
"Well somehow your underwear and blanket got wet, so you need new ones. You can just close your eyes, I'll do all the work and then let you get back to sleep."
"You are SICK! You people are sick! Quit taking off my pants all the time! Sick!"
"I'm sorry, Marla, we're halfway done now. Wet ones are off, I need you to roll towards the wall so we can pull up the new ones. Okay, I'm going to clean you with a wet wipe, there we go, okay, now one more big roll back towards me. Good. All done, you can go back to sleep now, thank you."
"You're sick. Don't come back."
"We'll see. Good night Marla."

The best was the time I forgot to bring a new incontinent pad to put under her, and said "I've got to get you a blanket, I'll be right back." Marla was angry to the Nth degree, and spat out "I WON'T miss you!" I know I shouldn't have, but I had to laugh at that one! How can you get mad at someone who says that to express their fury? It's adorable.

I do have one new resident who swears when I change him at night, but again, I can't take it personally. Warren starts out sounding fierce, but then drifts off again, sliding into "word salad" toward the end. So his tirades come out like "No no no no no ass BITCH get away bitch ass bitch no no no you can't you can't no fat bitch ass fuh fuh fiddle faddle diddle daddle doodle draddle . . ." and then he's out again. Starts out offensive, ends up silly. Every time.

And like every facility, there's that delightful 30% or so of little old ladies who are just sweet as pie no matter what. I wake them, ask if they need to get up and go to the bathroom, check their briefs, and usually get a hug and a kiss before leaving their room. It's pretty amazing. I really appreciate them, because I know I wouldn't be that sweet if someone woke me up every few hours every night of my life. But they seem to understand that I'm there to help them, and they love me for it. It's pretty great.

I like my old people at night, whether they're NOT missing me or giving me kisses for offering to help them to the bathroom. But that's not going to stop me from trying to rock my interview for evening shift at the skilled nursing facility!


  1. Dear Polly,
    Good Luck, I hope you rocked it!!
    When I was a nurse's aide in a nursing home for 3 whole months, there was a gentleman that needed some help going poo. He was paralyzed so that meant actually going in and retrieving. I was quite new but my presence was required. I was very nervous about how he was going to feel while I am just standing there awkwardly with a nurse probing around inside him. He rose to the occasion. He pretended he was giving birth and moaned and chortled and yelled, 'It's comin'! It's comin'!'
    and also, 'Is it a girl or a boy?' He was cracking himself up! I think he actually enjoyed having a woman poking around in his hiney and having another woman by his side.
    I know that it was painful physically for him, not to mention the emotional strain that that kind of situation would incur. So it could have gone in such a different direction. Yes, it is amazing and tender what the older generation will do and say to make one feel at ease and say thank you without actually saying thank you.
    Love from NYC...