Monday, January 21, 2013

ABUSERS AND THE ABUSED

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.

36 comments:

  1. Don't feel bad, the inmates run the jails and the students run the schools, at least they do here. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The students run the schools here, too. I don't know about inmates running the jails. I think prison is a pretty miserable place to be.

      Delete
  2. Suz wrote a comment, and I swear I clicked on PUBLISH, Suz, but your comment disappeared. Anyway, Suz said something about being caught between a classic rock and a hard place and that I'm the most phenomenally beautiful and brilliant woman she's ever known. At least it was something to that effect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're absolutely right on all counts, Suz. Thank you so much for admiring me nearly as much as I admire myself.

      Delete
  3. That's a side of the story the public rarely, if ever, hears about. Oh, and I'm sure you remembered the comment Suz left exactly right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I've ever seen a newspaper story about charges brought against nursing home patients by caregivers. It's just tolerated.

      Delete
  4. I think it takes a certain type of person, individuals with patients and a generosity of spirit to work with these elderly people. You are obviously a patient person with a generous spirit.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My grandfather volunteered at a home for mentally handicapped citizens when he was in his 80's. He loved to work...he'd do odd jobs. One time someone came up behind him and startled him. I think he was pushed and then pushed back. He wasn't allowed to work after that. I totally get why. He'll be 98 in June by the way. He's pretty remarkable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our naturally instinct is to protect ourselves. It can be pretty difficult to turn off an instinct.

      Delete
  6. There are some sad stories out there.
    R

    ReplyDelete
  7. This post took me back to when I would go and visit my greataunt at the nursing home she was in there was this lady there "Ivy" who would fight the staff hitting, punching and bitting and at times she would self harm and try and blame a staff member. Mum and I were there one day when she slammed her head on a table then yelled out that a staff member had done it but everyone saw her do it herself.
    Made me and mum wonder what would have happened if there were no witnesses to her actions.........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It sounds as if Ivy definitely had mental problems, and you're right, it's a good thing there were witnesses.

      Delete
  8. must have been quite a challenge to deal with these characters if they can drive you nuts like that.

    i do like Carl though :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked Carl because he liked me. If he had threatened me or hit me, I probably wouldn't have been too fond of him.

      Delete
  9. Hi Janie .. it does happen - it's frustration and they flail out - their only way of control ..

    Very sad that it happens ... As long as you're safe, we do our best for those who need our help ... It's happened to me, happened when my mother had a care home .. it happens - just desperately sad and difficult to adjust to ...

    It's good to be reminded ... Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People need to know that not everyone in a nursing home is frail and helpless, and the law is on the side of the residents.

      Delete
  10. It woul.d be hard to work a job like that for sure. I've nver been one to stand by and take a beating. Ask my ex. He tried and I picked up a frying pan and hit him so hard with it the side dented in.. I kept that till last year when Phil finally threw it away. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Phil was afraid you'd dent the other side -- on him.

      Delete
  11. I put a comment here but zi guess blogger didn't put it threw so here it is..
    It would be hard workiing a job were you get abused. I've never dealt well with that. Ask my ex.. He tried and I caved in the side of a frying pan on his head. Part of the reason he is my ex. Kept that pan till last year when Phil threw it away. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It worked. I have comment moderation turned on and sometimes it takes me a while to publish the non-spam comments.

      Delete
  12. Whew. And I thought I had it rough working as a vet technician with hostile animals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No matter what your job you're bound to find some hostility and some happiness.

      Delete
  13. I say, Kick Her Ass. I'm pretty sure you could take her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It mighta been fun to bitch slap the old bitch. And then I would have been fired, lost my license, and the state would have brought charges against me.

      Delete
  14. WOw your stories get better and better.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow. That's pretty scary. I had never thought of the abuse workers might have to deal with!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course, we had some cases of patients being abused. I'll write about that another time. I think it's far more upsetting because the ones who got hurt couldn't protect themselves.

      Delete
  16. "Oh, yes. The lunatics often took over the asylum." How do you find that different from everyday life?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's very similar to my former life with Dr. X.

      Delete
  17. Replies
    1. You mean the part about my beauty and brilliance, right?

      Delete
  18. At our Hospice, we have a zero tolerance policy for violence, and one would think that means from the staff to the patient, but it also means from the patient to the staff. We've discharged a couple of patients in the time I've been there because of this. Although, of course we can't discharge dementia patients for violence, because they don't know what they are doing. Our home health aides have to just deal with it, unfortunately.

    ReplyDelete

Got your panties in a bunch? Dig 'em out, get comfortable, and let's chat.