Monday, May 30, 2011

Ongoing Grief

A while ago, I wrote about a resident I nicknamed "ScaryLady" on this blog, because she used to beat up all of us caregivers every single night when we tried to put her to bed. I literally had bruises up and down my arms every day for about 2 months straight that were all from her. Now she's on a routine behavioral medication for the first time, and is doing much better. She cooperates with care more, which means she gets more care, rather than just the absolute necessities. I see a different side of her, and it's so nice.

Her daughter is pretty in denial about how far NotScaryAnymoreLady's disease has progressed. I wondered what she thought, hearing about how her Mom needed further medication in order to stop injuring her caregivers. I tried to put myself in her shoes and imagine what that would feel like, but all I got was awkwardness, and I felt self-conscious about my bruises when she was there to visit her Mother. I felt torn between wanting her to know where they came from and being embarrassed that I couldn't somehow stop the behaviors.

Today I felt like I got a bit of a taste of what it's like to have a family member that's acting out like that, and it really has made me sympathetic to my residents' families.

One of my residents is a man I've been taking care of for about 2 years at several of the last places I've worked at. His family moved him into the GreatRep partly because I started working there, and they have been very pleased with the way I've worked with him over time. There was a gap of several months where I didn't see him before he moved in, so my knowledge of him wasn't very up-to-date. I told my coworkers how nice he is, and easy going. And then he moved in, and he wasn't. He refused showers, did a lot of very annoying and rude things, and even sexually harrassed one of my coworkers. I felt terrible, having vouched for him like that, even though everyone reassured me that they understood it's just the disease. Dementia does that to people.

This last week has been hellish. My resident has been escalating in aggression, trying to take advantage sexually of other more impaired residents (like the nonverbal ladies who don't understand what's going on). And when we try to redirect him, he's been increasingly hostile to staff.

This morning at breakfast, I was giving meds to someone who was sitting at the table with that guy, and the guy suddenly looked at me, looked at my chest, and asked me if I was wearing a bra. Ugh. I said "That's not an appropriate question and we aren't going to talk about this subject". He started challenging me "Why not? Are you? I bet you are." I restated that this was NOT OKAY and he needed to stop talking to me that way. And then he asked me if I wanted to fight. And I said no. And then he stood up and told me he was going to punch me. Instinct kicked in and I said authoritatively "No, you are NOT." He sat back down, and I ignored him and finished up my task.

This is a guy that I used to think of as like a second Grandpa. I know his entire extended family, went to his wife's most recent birthday party, and have babysat his great grandkids. And he wanted to punch me in the face, and would likely have sexually assaulted me if circumstances allowed it.

It just hurts so much.

Now there isn't much to be done about him right now. He needs medication changes, and until they can happen, he must have a family member supervising him in our facility at all times. For the safety of our residents and our staff. And me. I think the fact that he did that to me really shocked his family and they're being very helpful.

But I think I got a taste of how awful it is to have your loved one scaring people, scaring you. And it's so bad. I feel so terrible for the family members. Alzheimer's is a really mean disease at times.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


It's been a long haul on this one, guys. First I worked overtime for months to save up enough for the tuition. Then I spent 6 weeks doing eve shifts at work M-F, and 8 hours of class every Saturday and Sunday. Then I had to get a new certificate of completion because the CNA board was baffled that Polly could be a nickname for Pollyanna, and insisted my paperwork all say Pollyanna. Then today, finally, I got up at 5am, drove all the way to the big city and ...


I've already got my info ready to go so I can get my raise at work tomorrow. I'm so happy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Listen to your Grandmas

The other day, I was helping Mr. Polly do some work on my Grandma's bathroom (just replacing fixtures and such) and she asked me how the new job is going. I said I love it, but I do get tired because it's a 10 hour shift and it's more standing than walking. She hiked up her pant leg and showed me her spider veins, and told me to start wearing support hose NOW. My Grandma was a hospital pharmacist her entire career and stood for long shifts as well. Plus, genetics. So I ran out and got some support socks. (There's just no freaking way I'm gonna wear support pantyhose to work under my scrubs. Not happening. Ever.)

The Cherokee Workwear ones come in a pack of three and they SUCK. Maybe they're better if you have smaller feet, but I don't. I have big size 10 feet. And so the socks don't come up that high on me, and they kept rolling down all day too and driving me crazy. Thumbs down, Cherokee. I'll be giving those away to my shorter coworkers.

The NurseMates ones do come in different sizes according to your shoe size, and they are awesome. I got pink ones with butterflies on them. I've been hand-washing them with my same castille soap that I use in the shower, and they're holding up nicely. Hopefully my legs will be as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Me + Med Cart = True Love

I fricking love my new job at my same facility. I have more independence and autonomy, which is AWESOME when my coworkers are being douchebags like they were today. I'm learning a lot and becoming more med-literate, which is helping as I do my nerdy stuff like look up decision making flowcharts related to different behaviors and how to manage them. Now I can look up "screaming" on and am familiar with some of the medications they suggest.

Also, I'm good at getting all my residents to take their meds. Even the paranoid ones. And I'm starting to remember who takes what so if I see Sally Lou limping and say "Does your foot hurt?" and she says yes, I can remember whether I give her routine tylenol or not, and go run and get it right away. Or if I see Harry starting to get hinky and rearrange his furniture while wearing lots of layers, I can think "Do I give him behavioral meds? Yes! Now might be a good time for that!"

Now I'm feeling guilty that I said my coworkers were being douchebags. Really it was only 2 out of the 12 that I saw today. And it's the same 2 that are always like that. One is just honestly very dumb, and so it's really hard to communicate with her. Example: our facility has two wings, East and West. On East, most of the residents can walk, talk and feed themselves. On West, they don't. My dimbulb coworker has been there for probably 4 months and still cannot tell you which is which. Or where each resident's room is. These are things that normal people knew within 2 weeks of working there. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, that one!

So I love getting to wheel my cart around, popping pills, doing my paperwork and phone calls to family, and not having to chase down Dimbulb to help with a 2-person transfer or Lazy to watch the floor while I go give a shower.

Oh med cart, I love you so much!

Friday, May 13, 2011


The other night after work, I was telling Mr. Polly about my day and he said something like "and tomorrow they'll all try to escape" and without thinking about it, I reached over to knock on the coffee table. Because at work, whenever anyone says something jinxy (be it "Wow, what a quiet night" or "They're all so calm today!") we all immediately knock on wood.

I think this is common to all healthcare workers, in nursing homes or in hospitals. Lots of people are superstitious about death and ghosts as well. Since my buddy Darlene passed away, many of my coworkers have been extra worried about our other residents when they get wheezy or have an unresponsive episode, because they think death comes in threes.

We all metaphorically batten down the hatches whenever it's a full moon as well. Seriously, the weirdest stuff that my old folks have done has all been during the full moon. Walking around in the courtyard in the cold weather with no pants, shoes or underwear? Check. Falling asleep in someone else's bed and then insisting that yes, those dresses in the closet ARE yours and this IS your room (male resident)? Yep. All during the full moon. Eating fake plants, rearranging furniture in odd ways, hoarding all sorts of pillows under one's sweater? Those are everyday things.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Post Mortem

Yesterday one of my residents died quickly and unexpectedly. Usually they are on hospice and comfort care beforehand and everyone has a day or two to say goodbye. But Darlene didn't, she just suddenly went gray in our livingroom area. We rushed her to her room to assess her, and by the time we got her there, she was gone. It was so shocking. The caregiver that discovered this burst into tears. I sat with her body while we waited for the EMT's to come confirm that she was dead. Afterwards, the med aide that's been training me and I did her post-mortem care.

It was shocking and scary, but I've made it through my first time and felt that I did right by my buddy Darlene at that time. She was so funny and good-natured. She liked to stay up late and wander around in her nightgown and sneakers, patting all our cheeks and saying "You're a nice boy". We'll miss our Darlene. And already it's becoming easier to picture her alive than dead, which is a huge relief.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Passed my Tests

I passed my written med aide test, and also my Med Cart Audit by the Director of Nursing today. I was so freaking nervous about the audit that my face was numb and my knees were shaking! The idea of having the DON follow me around during my med pass on my 3rd day of training was enough to give me the heebie jeebies. Badly. Especially since I idolize her. Seriously, I don't know how she does it but she knows EVERYTHING that goes on in my facility and manages to command everyone's respect and be likeable at the same time. She's like the Wizard of Oz meets Barack Obama meets Mother Theresa. Or something.

Anyway, she watched me pass meds to be sure I was being thorough and careful and understood all the procedures. Her only complaint was that I'm very slow (duh!) but she said she's sure that will improve with time and she feels confident letting me do it on my own now.


Also, I had really good luck finding scrubs at Goodwill and Value Village this week. I got the top pictured on the bottom left for $2!

And a pair of black simple Dickies scrub pants, and another Koi top that's really pretty. So I'm all set. One of my charge nurses brought in some of her old ones for me which I haven't tried on to see if they fit yet or not, but they're pretty ugly; one is an aquarium print. Ummmm ... it's the thought that counts!

But the one in the photo gets a big thumbs up from me - the black panels are stretchy and instead of the 2 front pockets it has one big front kangaroo pocket, which is perfect for the 8 zillion keys I now carry around.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm in like Flynn

Had my first day of med tech/med aide training today, and I think I'm going to love it. I like getting to learn how to read the MAR's, new charting, getting familiar with all the medications and what they do, and really getting to use my brain at work for the first time in a while. Caregiving is more social intelligence and brute strength combined, and this is more being meticulous, some critical thinking, and a ton of new things to learn.

The shifts are longer (10 hours instead of 8) so that is tiring, but I'm delighted to be getting done at a time when normal people get done with work now too. I'll be working med aide 3 days a week, and caregiving in between in order to keep me at full-time.

It felt really good to have my coworkers congratulating me today as they noticed that I was wearing regular scrubs instead of the caregiving uniform ones, and I love that in this role, I get to see the whole building and almost all the residents, rather than just the one hallway at a time.

Walking around there today was like seeing a new place; the people were all the same but my focus was very different. It's kind of like when you go back and visit your elementary school and can't believe how little the desks are. Familiar, but different enough to be disconcerting and charming at the same time.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll get my book learning session in with the DON and I think I may even be working the cart on my own (!) this weekend - yikes/hooray!