Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Own Patron Saint

I just found out I have a patron saint.  The priest told me, so it must be right.

I work very part time in an old folks home .. actually more of a nursing home.  We are specialized in end stage Alzheimers and geriatric/psychiatirc.  In other words, the people no one else wants, we get.  I only work occasionally to keep my foot in the door and, well, because being a missionary is not a good way to get rich or even pay all the bills!  Recently, I went back to work almost full time for three months.  We had some emergency staff absences at work, so someone had to fill in for awhile.  One staff broke her foot, another's husband fell down the stairs and broke about five bones, a pregnant coworker threatened to miscarry, and another poured a pot of boiling potatoes over herself.  We are just not a big enough home to absorb that many emergencies and keep going, so I got suddenly dumped with a lot of shifts.  They also were shifts all over the grid - some days, some evenings, some nights, and then more all mixed up again.  It was grueling.

We've got a few big men now.  In fact, I don't think we have any man who is under six foot at this moment.  Most of our men are nice....  but disease does interesting things to the brain.  We have three who are "fighters".  One is sort of comical, one is sporadic, and one is downright dangerous.  We've been hit, kicked, punched, grabbed, spit on, and attacked.  I'm getting tired of it.  My arms begin to look like I'm an abused wife - bruises of different stages of healing up and down my arms and legs.  My worst injury was a few weeks ago when our more dangerous man grabbed my wrist and squeezed with all his strength.  He popped my joint, weak from two previous dislocations, in and out of joint.  I couldn't lift anything for a week, and still have pain with it.  I'm supposed to be on "light duty"... yeah right!  All it means is I have an excuse for moving a little slower - none of our patients are light duty.  Still, it is better than my coworker who got a concussion from this man.

Anyway, the other night, our retired priest went bezerk.  It took four of us to just get his diaper changed and him washed a little.  Honestly, the things I hear priests and nuns say after they get Alzhiemers makes me wonder...  for weeks he kept complimenting us on how we looked.  Looking up and down us as we steadied him on his feet to change him, he would comment, "Hmm.. you are a very. attractive. young. lady."  I felt like saying, "hey, you took a vow of celibacy".  Another time, he yelled and screamed at us and told us, "I already paid the first girl, you aren't getting any more money!" after calling us all prostitutes.  But this time, he went bezerk, trying to hit us, trying to ram us with his chair, barking and hissing and growling.  After we changed him, I sat with him attempting to calm him down.  I began all the Catholic prayers I knew because if I started them, he would finish them before yelling more.  Finally, since it was St. Patrick's day, I asked him about St. Patrick and who he was the saint of.  The priest gave me a disgusted angry look and leaned closer to say, "He's the patron saint of people like you!" in a very derogatory tone. 

Hey, I have my own patron saint!  The saint of nurses aides who keep getting beat up, perhaps?  Well, we need a saint working there! 

So thankful that my coworkers are back on the job, and I am back to working only one day a week!  I was getting tired of being beat up!  Even though I love my patients, (and the "dangerous man" is really sweet when we are not trying to undress or wash him), I am getting tired of it.  It is demoralizing to be beat up, swore at, and called a prostitute simply because you care enough to help wash ...um...um... well, wash that off old people's rear ends.

My grandpa died recently and as people gave me sympathy over the last weeks, I had a hard time being too sad.  I was only happy that he had lived his life well and died quickly after a good day in church and visiting with friends.  He never ended up in a home and going through all the horrors we see there.  All three of my grandpas were able to die peacefully at home.  That is something to be grateful for.  I think the prayer of every worker in a home like ours is, "Please, Lord, when I get old, let me die quickly."  It is not that we aren't nice.... it is just that Alzhiemers is an awful disease.  The only thing I think I hate more is Parkinson's which leaves the mind but takes the body first, then the mind.  Alzhiemers steals the brain, but then comes a time when people are less aware of their suffering than with Parkinsons.  Both are terrible.

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