You've probably read horrific accounts of patients abused in nursing homes. And it definitely happens.
But I'm willing to bet you've never heard about the other people abused in nursing homes: staff members.
Vera, a night wanderer on the second floor, wheeled herself into her neighbors' room at about 2 a.m. "Vera," I whispered loudly, "you can't be in here. It's not your room."
Looking as fierce as a pit bull preparing to clamp down on an unsuspecting caretaker, she opened her mouth to hiss, "I can go wherever I want."
"Vera, c'mon. You'll wake these two ladies and maybe frighten them," I said, as I grabbed the handles of her chair and pulled her out of the room.
When we reached Vera's room, she turned on me and started slapping me with both her hands.
I swear to God there is no one stronger than an 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair who wants her own way and she doesn't care what she has to do to get it.
I had something on my side, though. My legs worked and I could run faster than Vera could wheel her chair.
Owen, fondly known as "Pop," got pretty pissed when a charge nurse told him he stunk and that it was my job to unstink him. He punched in our direction like a shadow boxer.
"Stay back," the nurse warned me. "He will punch you in the face if he gets the chance."
Yeah, right. So how was I supposed to get close enough to wash him? Jo came in and saved the day. Pop liked Jo because she took him to the day room to watch old episodes of The Cosby Show, which were new to him. He listened to Jo's soft voice when she promised she'd take him to watch TV after I helped him clean up.
On the third floor, my great nemesis, Dot, once grabbed my face with her long polished nails because she didn't want her diaper changed. Fortunately, one of my favorite co-workers, Carol, was there, too. I put up my hands to try to protect myself from Dot and might have hit her in self defense if Carol hadn't been there to pry Dot's claws from my face. Perhaps I wouldn't have been fired for slapping her hands in that situation, but I would have been raked over the coals and suspended for anywhere from a week to six months.
And then there was Carl, who was psychotic? schizophrenic? a sociopath?
I don't know what his diagnosis was, but Carl once told me that the lights on the building across the street were electric eyes watching him. ''I can close the blinds," I said. "We'll shut them out."
"No, it wouldn't do any good," Carl said dejectedly.
I was lucky that Carl liked me. Why some patients with mental problems took a liking to certain staff members and couldn't stand others was incomprehensible. The secret was in the patient's befuddled mind, just as it was when Carl grabbed a young man who worked in the laundry and put his hands around the kid's neck.
It took a number of nurses and GNAs to keep Carl, still going strong at 70-some years old, from strangling the boy he happened to be in the mood to abuse.
We could't hit back. It was against the law. The only retribution I ever saw a patient face was when Letitia became angry with a pretty young LPN who tried to give Letitia her meds. Letitia chased the pretty young LPN out into the hall and tried to whack the poor girl with her cane.
Letitia was promptly hauled off for a visit to the psych ward at the local hospital.
But she soon returned to our facility.
Oh, yes. The lunatics often took over the asylum.