5 October 2013
More of the same intellectual foolishness
why am I reminded of the Keystone Cops?
Yesterday was my second scheduled shower day, I was looking forward to it. My briefs hadn't been changed in two days (for a different reason). I don't care how careful one is while urinating while supine, there is always some drainage once the sphincter muscle closes. This is in part why females can be very insistent on having toilet paper available when using the facilities and little boys learn the rhyme, “That no mater how much you may shake and dance the last few drops go in your pants.”
Its a consequence of anatomy and gravity intersecting at this juncture, after a long day of making sure I remain hydrated sufficiently, the medical people fumbling about with various diuretics to reduce my blood pressure, there has been more than my fair share of my own form of “uretics” that have no where else to go but my briefs and to some small degree my lower abdomen. Now, I am told by some CENAs that I can request a bed bath at any time, and this does help clear up the feeling of being steeped in my own juices, like an overused teabag. But there is nothing like running water cascading all over you to convey the sensation of approaching being truly clean. And the fact that through no reason of my own cause, I am authoritatively assigned two showers per week. It is not just me, everyone is awarded only two cleansing showers per week, just as prisoners are afforded. I guess if that is good enough for individuals who have been adjudicated in a court of law, then what standing do I have that this might by somewhat niggardly of an approach toward my wanting to “closer to Godliness?”
So yesterday I was feeling somewhat vile, odious, filthy even, I was ready for a shower, eagerly anticipating the mildly tepid water that we are allowed. The water temperature is regulated before it even gets to the tap and the mixing valve for the same reason the coffee here is so bad and it is impossible to make a decent cup of tea as well, there is this absolute fear and loathing that someone may get burned. It started with various corporation's counsel after that famous case where the elderly California woman burned herself with a cup of coffee bought from MacDonald s drive through window. She sued MacDonald s for damages, it made the news, the late night comedians all made great fun of the issue. While we all were being treated to a laugh fest about being clumsy with a hot beverage, those of a more legal and busybody mind began to swing into action to save us all from ourselves from ever getting burned ever again. Ah, there is nothing like the self appointed Nanny effect to bring those who favor fancying themselves as looking out for the public good. Now, not only do facilities such as this have built in safety measures that make sure we will never be harmed by overly warmed water ever touching any part of our bodies, but state legislatures are not to be outdone. There are regular surprise inspections to determine if everyone is playing by the guidelines the state has so thoughtfully determined to be so very safe for various kinds of water applications to these fragile bodies. Good Lord, I am sure now we won't fry or melt.
It amazes me that they could give any broken fecal material if we ever have a warm, steaming hot shower ever again, or a good cup of coffee, or tea. No! That causes no one any concern whatsoever, why after all they even make laundry soap that is supposed to work effectively in cold water – so what's my problem?
It is just that after discovering the wonders of some of the more gentle and delightfully wonderful aspects that could be enjoyed in life, and spending most of my adult life securing and enjoying them, suddenly they have changed the upper limits limits for me. No matter what I try or how I conduct myself, these items are continually and most possibly forever being withheld from me. If I challenge the rationale behind such acts, I am told with the straightest of faces that it is either in my best interests or it is against facility rules or state law or both. Sheesh! Talk about feeling small, powerless and ganged up upon …
So, Friday I was looking forward to one of my only twice a week opportunities to get clean per week. I was helped from my bed by a new CENA with the aid of a machine known as an
Easy Stand. My wheelchair was at the ready. My selection of clean clothing had been selected and already carried down to the shower room, awaiting my entry and subsequent shower. I was literally dangling in mid air, between the bed and the wheelchair when there was a knock at the door. Another CENA poked her head in the room and announced that the word had just come down that the order was being sent up and down the hallway that there were to be no more showers begun from now on, until further notice.
The CENA working with me protested, that we were just on our way down there, my clothing and toilet articles are down there waiting for us. “That doesn't matter”, we were told, higher ups are in the building and our administrators don't want any showers going on.
The CENA working with me apologized to me, (even though we both knew it was not her fault) then stripped off my two day old, odious briefs and put on some new ones. I was fitted with some shorts and shoes, I was still wearing my T shirt from Wednesday (I'm still wearing that one now, today its Saturday afternoon). I was placed in my wheelchair ready to greet the day as if a shower had already been effected. Maybe other people are fooled by such subterfuge, but I know better. The thought that I am going out even within the halls of this place wearing unscrubbed skin, left since last Tuesday's shower is somewhat disconcerting. This is on Friday. As I write now on Saturday I feel even more unapproachable by those who have been able to pass soap and water over themselves. Talk about feeling a part of the “Great Unwashed”, ugh.
I rolled my wheelchair out and down the hall, pressed the elevator button and could subtly hear some of the verbal commotion coming from the floor below. A sure sign that something was going on down there that necessitated someone holding the elevator doors open, and thus the elevator wouldn't be arriving anytime soon.
Often when I am riding down the elevator and it does stop at that floor, the doors would open and several people will be sitting in wheelchairs clustered around the doorway to the elevator, close enough so that if anyone wishes to get off at that floor, they can't do so as there is nowhere to step. Often the people clustered near the door are having “issues” with one another, trading insults and invectives with each other like impudent children. Many of these folks do not hesitate to include others, including yourself, into their little special abusive contumelies, if you are unfortunate to be nearby. Further from the door is a gentleman with an unknown (to me) difficulty. He never speaks but is often vocal. He makes growling sounds which seem to have some kind of meaning to him, often with some long term observation of his behaviors, some of his vocalizations/behaviors begin to show some meaning. But whatever he is trying to say, it gets repeated ad infinitum until it loses all sense and meaning. Through the closed doors of the third floor elevator I could hear this tumult rising up from the second floor.
Listening to this brouhaha the thought occurred to me that I don't even sing in the shower, yet I had to forfeit my shower for some bigwig, high mucky-muck to not be disturbed while doing a surprise inspection? Boy, I hope the sacrifice was worth it. Whatever the result I can be assured that my sacrifice has been long since forgotten by now. I should be soaking wet by this time, soap cascading over the entire surface of me, reaffirming my able part in gentile community. Instead I am captive here in Bedlam due to the fact that I have a neurological disease and this is the only place that everyone believes I need to be. I certainly don't understand, I really feel completely misunderstood myself.
The elevator takes me down to the ground floor. The second floor rumbling disturbance passes behind doors that don't open on this pass, thankfully. I roll up near the reception desk,make my greetings and sit for a while, able to see normal people – at least more normal than the rest of the people I get to see here all day. Various family members and friends of residents come in and out. Service providers come and go. It is a relief to sense their different sense of who they are as they come into the building. Most of the employees give off a different feeling. Many have the sense of just scraping by until the next paycheck, or trying to stay away from too much scrutiny for now.
Someone new to me comes down the stairwell and out into the lobby. He has dark hair, next to no neck and his white shirt is distended quite a bit over his belt, which looks as if it had given the better part of its functional life for a thankless cause. He is carrying a case type clipboard into which he places papers and retrieves others. He is wearing one of the company name tags on a cord around his ample neck. Several people speak to him informally, he responds in kind. There is no sense that anything is wrong. He says thank you and leaves out the front door.
I turn to the receptionist (who seems to be aware of everything going on in the building) and ask quietly, is that the reason everyone was walking on egg shells?
Well, I certainly hope my giving up my shower was worth it to everybody. Personally, right off the bat I am not too impressed, maybe it is because he shares the same physique as my younger brother. Possibly there is some transference going on here. I am not very appreciative of fellows who are that overweight. And I'm still feeling unclean.
Back upstairs I find my lunch tray waiting on my bed. I roll up to it and pull the tray onto my knees, then proceed to eat my lunch. Ten minutes later I am done (the portions are small – I continue to lose weight, in spite of extreme inactivity). I find the food cart with the trays on it, a CENA thanks me and takes the tray to place it somewhere until the full food trays are completely removed, then the cart becomes the collection cart gathering up the empties to return to the kitchen.
As it grows close to two o'clock and the end of the shift, the CENA from this morning and the aborted shower finds me and apologizes for not being able to accomplish the shower today. She assures me that she feels really bad about the way things worked out. But, she does work both Saturday and Sunday, she will move everything to get me a shower then, is that okay?
She hasn't worked here enough to know that will never happen, I realize that she would like to do that, she is even willing to do that, but I would be very surprised if she will get a chance to do what she offers. I know that even if she is due to work those days, once they come on the floor the CENAs working on that shift break down the number of residents on their floor by the number of CENAs working that shift so that they each have even number to care for. The resident numbers are down now so recently there have been three rather than four CENAs per shift. The chance that she will get to work the section in which in I reside is small. Folks that work with me also get to work with my neighbor – he is always difficult to work with. He argues, always takes a negative point of view, even if it is not to any advantage. He insists on being intolerable. He insults anyone, he doesn't care. Complains vociferously and loudly. If one where to try to motivate him by saying that he is hurtful and mean, he says “Good, now get out!”
The advantage to having to deal with Joe, next door, is that the same CENAs also get to work with me. Joe just requires attention in the morning, getting up out of bed – and at night getting back into bed. That is when he most often swears at the CENAs and is so unreasonable. First and second shift each get a wrestling match with an undesirable character. The rest of the time they like to stop and hang out in my room.
Sure enough this morning she was on staff but not assigned to me. I saw her briefly helping (receiving valuable experience with another CENA how to survive working with my neighbor). Through my open door, our eyes met briefly. She had that knowing look that gave the impression that she realized that she couldn't get to giving me a shower today. I smiled equally knowingly to her, “Welcome to organized Bedlam – watch your sanity.”
I know that several CENAs have told me that I should be able to get a bed bath any time I want. Sounds like something from the depths of the CENA-Resident interface handbook. Something they are supposed to know but no one ever actually says out loud. I have asked for a bed bath a couple of times while I was getting used to only one shower every three or four days. Only a couple of CENAs undertook such a task very willingly, usually such an effort was best engaged early in the morning. By the time ten–thirty rolls around their focus is on moving toward lunch duties, and after that the emphasis of their efforts is toward getting lunch picked up. Finishing their charting of behaviors, passing out shift waters, then leaving. Chances of getting washed up quickly disintegrate once the opportunity for the planned shower has passed.
Afternoon shift has a whole 'nother set of residents whom they are expected to shower, and there are only two single occupancy shower rooms on this floor. Right now the resident number is somewhere in the low thirties. Capacity is set at low forties as the numbers ebb and flow, the quality of service changes.
I am beginning to have my own delicate oder about me. Good thing I sleep with the CPAP machine, I might be distracted by my own ripeness otherwise. Tomorrow is Sunday. Most every Sunday is laid back around here. Just like about everywhere else. No body comes to visit me here, I don't expect things to be too crowded tomorrow. The CENA schedule should be somewhat more open tomorrow. Sure is different having to preplan something as simple as getting washed up. By the time get to next Tuesday when I probably will get my next real shower, my hair will have no body left to it and I really will look like a grease ball.
Oh the joys of a healthcare program designed by administrators, overseen by different administrators, and carried out by individuals who seem to exhibit various levels of willingness, ability and follow through! I never envisioned my non-working time to be lived out this way. None of this is even close to what I expected. Not by a long shot.