Friday, April 4, 2014

29 March 2014

Deja vu Repeats

Like that movie Groundhog Day, this Saturday seems to have been here before. Complete with the same attributes the pattern has demonstrated , a laid back quality that seems to fit the thank-your-lucky-stars Friday is past and the work week is done. And we don't have to gear up for work again until Sunday night mentality. This combination pervades the staff here. As the end of the week approaches, CENAs and nurses alike make references to what they are going to do this coming weekend. The standard work schedule, however, allows each employee only every other weekend open for themselves. The work schedule alternates three days on a day off, with three more days on then two days off. The staff trade work days among themselves as their family needs require. In this way everyone gets to work on the weekend somewhere in the month. The only constant shifts belong to the salary people, floor supervisory nurses who oversee everything that happens on that floor, facility administrator, facility nursing director, the director of rehabilitation.

This difference in these work schedules makes for a difference in the way the employees behave during the week. The folks that work through the weekend occasionally seem to be more approachable, while the salary workers are a little more aloof. I suppose that distance helps to retain their professional demeanor and allows them to make clear headed decisions that are a part of their job duties. But they never seem to be able to drop the professional persona to reveal the person hidden beneath. Thus the decisions that are made that seem to reflect the professional part of the decision maker, and not much that benefits the resident. Decisions that influence the resident act upon the resident as an object, not as a person that may benefit, the facility is the major beneficiary.

Now somewhere in the organizational hierarchy it was decided that to make the time spent here a little more enjoyable for the residents. There is a leisure cart containing reading material so that people might relieve their boredom. Nice idea. But the concept is not carried out very well. The leisure cart contains women's magazines that are several years old, old Zane Grey novels that are older than that, twenty year old Reader's Digest books with extra large print, and an occasional issue of Field & Stream with someone's favorite article ripped out. I find the leisure cart to be more filled with tedium than leisure. The idea of a leisure cart is good at the conceptual level, but the completion of the idea is very lacking. It seems to be stocked with someone's result from a collection of Spring cleaning from various homes. Rather than throw something out, it was donated, somehow the whiff of an insult seems to be unconsciously perpetuated through the leisure cart. If they are going to supply cast off material for leisure activities, how about old Scientific American, Smithsonian, or Nature, and Science magazines. How about library cast offs, there are sure to be some variety there.

Months ago I spoke with the supervisory staff here about doing some leisure activities here that are peculiar to me, I would be glad to help teach others some things like working with glass. I would need about half a room's space and a footlocker to preserve the tools. Well that would take too much space, we don't have that. But for some months now the resident population has been low here, and there are rooms empty and the CENA staff is constantly being whittled down, making life on the remaining residents here that much more difficult. Never fear, if you don't see anything on the leisure cart that appeals, we always have television. Yeah, right. So much for challenging the resident's free time. I am trying to figure out just what qualities of a resident's life television is there to serve?

Another indicator that it is the weekend here, lunch was just served, or as we call it the Saturday mid-day snack. During the week soup is often served with lunch. There is something satisfying to a bowl of soup with a meal. For some obscure reason Saturdays get by around here without any soup. Today the entree was a scoop of chicken salad (everyone else, the non celiacs, gets a chicken salad sandwich) accompanied by a small bowl of diced peaches. Last week's Saturday mid-day snack was three slices of lunchmeat with a slice of cheese. There were also two slices of gluten free bread, I suppose that meal had a dash of self-participation included so we wouldn't feel left out, build yer own sammich, whee! Last Sunday the noon meal was a scoop of egg salad, everyone else got egg salad sandwich. These folks go out of their way to make you feel right at home, although I'm here to say they got me all wrong, I am not that self deprecating or lazy at my house. I used to whip up a bowl of hot and sour soup with plenty of white pepper, or would weekly make a crock pot of Senate Bean Soup, served daily in the US Senate dining room, recipe available form the Michigan Bean Commission.

If good food is a key to one's improving health and maintaining of mental health these folks are definitely not on board with that. In fact I do believe they have no idea of the effect that food can have on people. I suggest a field trip to any sit-down style restaurant with these kitchen gnomes so they can experience for themselves the enlightening notion of good food for good health. There is so much more than calorie content alone. I have spoken with the head dietician, she is indeed a registered dietician. I asked her if she had any restaurant training in her background, “No”, she said, “Why?” The fact that she asked that question in return was most illustrative. It was obvious she never saw the implications of her lack of information background in comparison to being the food manager here.

The food here is a constant reminder that life has been and still could be better, I have never been in a situation where I have been so hamstrung in the ability to improve the situation I was in. Three times a day I am reminded that I have only two choices; to shut up and eat, or ignore it. There have been times when I just don't eat. The CENA staff here tracks the food that you eat during each shift. After a couple of days, the dietician comes to speak with me to find out if anything is wrong with the food. I take the time to explain the connection between eating and good health, physical and mental. She says that she understands, then leaves. The next few meals are no different. The sense I get is why try? Everyone pretends they want to do better by you, but the follow through is definitely lacking. What really hurts is seeing so many people who don't seem to understand, even when you take the time to explain to them.

Then I catch myself. I'm never going to make a dent with these folks. Their idea of a restaurant has a drive through window, food can be ordered through the car window by speaking into a clown face. The menu is on the wall or a weather proof placard outside near the clown face, the paper napkins blot the french fry grease from your fingers, but the special sauce from the burger never completely leaves your fingers. After that your steering wheel is forever filthy and you learn to settle for life corporately designed. Ain't life grand, what we ever do before Burger Doodle with their grease bombs came along?

One of the nurses the other day sat down to watch me take the morning's wad of pills I am supposed to take daily. (This is per one of the state laws. Medications are not to be left with the resident trusting them to take them on their own.) Some CENAs indicate that they have found an occasional pill hiding in a resident's bed, where the resident has lost it and it couldn't be found. The nurses take a darker point of view, the reason I have been given by some are to make sure the resident does not choke on the meds, others have said that they have found that the residents have been putting their meds in the trash next to the bed.

This particular nurse is from the more suspicious group. As soon as I put the last of the pills in my mouth, she leaves the room. I'm surprised that she leaves before I swallow. This leaves a very bad taste behind, she only stayed as long as she did to babysit the pill swallowing exercise. This time she sits down in my wheelchair and just watches me silently. There are eighteen pills, every morning, some of them are huge, I can take them only by themselves. As I swallow the third one she asks, “Why are you so quiet?”

Because I am busy swallowing pills.” between swallows, I reply.

I mean other than that.”

I'm an introvert,” I respond, “I am comfortable with silence. Its like a canvas upon which the sounds of life are arranged. I like to listen to what fills in between the sounds, there is much to be found there.”

What do you mean?” she asks.

Just that, what you just said. How illustrative. Did you catch it? Its very subtle” I reply.

I don't understand” she protests.

Exactly, not everyone does” from me. “Its like trying to explain rock and roll to your parents, they don't understand either. They hope that you will give them a template of words that they can apply in expectation that they will know what you know.”

So, what's wrong with that?”

I patiently reply, “Some people think their way through life, because that is the way they have been taught. Other people add their feelings to the mix. Feelings in one evoke similar resonant feelings in another. Which kind person do you want to be?”

What do you mean?”

What do you feel about a new nickname, how about “Barby Doll”?”

I don't understand.”

Indeed, with time, maybe ...”

Have you ever been in a room when someone enters, they start jabbering, filling the space of silence with lots of verbiage, and yet the feeling you get is the same as before anyone entered the room? There's no substance there, there is nothing to connect to, there might as well be another piece of furniture in the room instead of them. All of that verbiage is just to keep you occupied, distracted from what is really happening, giving your mind a chew toy to keep it busy like a simple dog. Some people are masters at that technique. It has always reminded me of two medieval warriors taunting each other encased in helmet and chain mail, hiding behind huge war shields. Unable to see one another, telling who the other is by the markings on their respective shields, and yet ready to kill the other as soon as they perceive the upper hand position is theirs.

There is so much more to life than that.

Do you remember that television series, canceled way too early, named Northern Exposure? I know it was quirky and a lot of people never saw some of the humor built into some of the scenes. There was one scene where the Native American woman, Marilyn, who was the receptionist in Dr. Joel Fleischman's office was sitting on the bench outside with another native. There was mostly silence between them interrupted with an occassional “Uh-huh,” “I know what you mean”, and “Yep” between them. Being or doing some act was the glue of the situation. The connection between the principles was the real action that was happening. Some people fail to see that. I feel real sorry for them about that.

I realize that there are not that many people who have taken the time to notice the felt component of life. If they have, there is the easy willingness of letting popular media and commercial interests define the unknown for them. Like the tempting candies in the shop window, its hard to resist the temptation of a readymade, generalized, commonplace answer. People that answer to the call of depth and greater realism are far and few between. And they certainly are not going to be haunting a facility like this. Unless something changes on the medical front, I figure the rest of my days will be spent in a place like this.

Makes my lack of being extremely outgoing more poignant and full of feeling. I can only begin to describe the contrast of self mastery and being cared for in the fashion practiced here. This style of care giving is not as life affirming as some might want to think. At least my memories are rich and intact. I may have lost a lot of my possessions and pictures, for now I still have my memories, but rest assured, there are ways those too can be taken. Meanwhile I find that a lot of people are here and in another way they are not here at the same time. Oh, to walk in the woods again!

Ever hopeful,

John Whiting
in the same ol' room, eh what day is it?

No comments:

Post a Comment