It is Christmas Eve, and I have never been separated from this holiday in celebration with my four daughters before. My husband had been fired for the third time in less than one year and I desperately needed employment, specifically for the insurance benefits.
I am employed as a nursing assistant at our local nursing home, and my first assignment is covering the entire Christmas holiday, working the 3-11 shift.
Gentle wispy snowflakes are dropping, as I enter the locked entryway. The facility does not care that I am prioritizing them and stare at me as I attempt to pass through the entanglement of wheelchairs, all clamoring to claim first place at the lead table.
I hang my dampened coat, covered with fresh snow, and my crocheted llama handbag in my assigned locker area.
Putting on an enigmatic smile, I approach the first resident, Olivia, who is blind, but yet is aware of my imposing footsteps. She is fingering her box of jewelry and asks my advice on what would accentuate her apparel. I try to be fully engaged, but I know that 29 other people are relying on me to deliver them to the dining area by 5:00 pm. I select her most artistic pair of earrings suitable for her color palette.
Onto the next room, where a married couple, Marion and George are encased in their cribs for their own protection. I have learned from a previous experience to transfer Marion first, gently lifting her into her wheelchair, while George awaits me. Once I reversed the process, Marion slapped me across the face, throwing my bifocals across the room. "Don't touch my husband!" Jealousy never stops no matter the age.
Rita stiffens as I enter her room, and because of her inability to move, she becomes even more resistant as I attempt to lift her.
I use my guard belt, but she outweighs me and I feel us both swaying as I drop her into the chair. She scowls at me menacingly.
She is a tubular feeder and hates having food pushed down her throat as if it were an adult sippy cup and resents the implication that she is not a self-feeder.
Lois remains in her room, but she resembles a pecking bird, whose arm and leg extensions are cramped tightly against her body. She vacantly looks at me and I was instructed to just do a body check, and I feel shame that I feel a sense of repulsion.
Edgar keeps his room dark and is infatuated with a porno station on his miniaturized tv set. I need to retrieve him from the corner and physically reposition his uncomfortable slouch. He grins at me as I lift his arms and legs in an upward stance. This gives me a creepy sensation.
Mary is fully dressed and I appreciate that she is already seated in her wheelchair, and we speedily take off for the dining room. I lock her wheels in place when I suddenly notice that she is not wearing her dentures and when I inquire, she doesn't know where they are?
Carol is capable of walking but is heading down the wrong hallway towards the arts and crafts room, slightly confused as to the correct direction.
Jennifer looks presentable and as I am about to depart from her room when she tells me that she needs to pee, but I am grateful, not in her depends, but actually on the toilet. Of course, most residents cannot reach behind themselves, so it is my responsibility to clean that particular area, but it is more than pee, it is several coils of poop.
My speed increases and even those patients, who are ambulatory, need assistance to prevent a serious fall or a slight swaying of their unbalanced bodies.
The nurse dispenses medications and I assist those residents that do not have full capabilities of lifting a utensil, due to tremors, or a mind that forgets that the body needs nourishment.
A special dessert is served for the holiday on Christmas Eve and the owners of this institution decide that they are all entitled to wine. I am horrified to know this, as certain meds specifically state not to be mixed with alcohol.
The giant exit begins, and I am once again notified that the high school student has called in sick, and I will solely be responsible for putting all 30 of the residents to bed.
Each room is equipped with a flashing light, to be used only for emergent purposes. Several begin to light up like a Christmas tree, and I can never ignore this because it could definitely be a signal for a patient, who is in distress. Having to pee is certainly a legitimate concern for them when they are unable to reach the toilet on their own. I respond as quickly as possible and when everyone is seated, the light signals again to be taken off the toilet and put into the security of their beds.
The wine is already taking effect, and there are many giddy smiles and laughter, but also a reluctance to go to bed and they are in a party mode.
Arms and legs flailing around, making it difficult to gently push their appendages into their pajamas and nightgowns.
There is denture removal and cleaning, and also requests for footwear as their toes and feet are beginning to feel chilled.
They are thirsty because of the consumption of wine and a dried unappetizing dinner. All water containers need to be filled and placed within their reach. I find myself running in order to accomplish this State controlled action, plus pinning a help button within their reach.
Suddenly, we have a resident, who is determined to leave the building and go home for Christmas (which I understand and this is what I am feeling). All on staff, which are not many, three of us need to restrain her, and her yelling is upsetting the other patients.
Normally, I am allowed a short interval of a break, but because of the staff shortages, not only am I not allowed to leave the building but requested to take on another shift as someone has called in sick
My response was, "I Quit."