Wheelchair Dancing


I’ve got a problem.
Really, for a building intended for long term care, most facilities are very poorly designed. Too small rooms, cramped bathrooms and other…architecturally questionable choices characterize most facilities of my experience.
It’s something a lot of aides tend to lump in with sins of management, but really, I don’t think it’s their fault. The people in the offices today aren’t the ones who approved this design–and a renovation can only do to fix a problem of square footage.
But whoever’s fault it is, I’ve still got a problem. I need to change Mrs. D and my path is blocked by her visitor and neighbor on the hall, Mr. E. They’ve been spending a lot of time together, I think as I contemplate the problem. Actually, it’s rather interesting, how his wheelchair exactly fits in the space between her dresser and bed…exactly, with no more than an inch or two clearance on either side.
Whoever designed this room shouldn’t have graduated from Architecture School, I think, and not for the first time.

There’s not enough room for me to get behind the wheelchair and I don’t feel like hopping over the bed. So instead, I grab Mr. E’s hands and pull him towards me as I walk backwards, watching carefully to make sure his butt stays in the wheelchair. Explaining to my supervisor how I managed to dump him on the floor is NOT a conversation I want to have. Fortunately, both he and the chair stay together as it rolls forward.
His face breaks into a smile that grows and grows; when I’ve pulled him far enough so that I could get behind the wheelchair, I don’t have the heart to stop. He’s laughing as I pull him out into the hall. On impulse, I pull him in a circle clockwise, then counterclockwise.
Our mingled laughter echoes down the hall. In the gaps, I hear the whispers:
“Come here! Look at this!”
“She’s dancing with him!”
“No fair, Mr! I called dibs on her!”
“My turn next!”

I turn him once more, then reluctantly, I let go of his hands. After all, this whole thing started as a way to get him out of the way so I could change his friend. The dancing was a happy accident.
Or rather, an unexpected good memory. I can see the life shining in his eyes…a piece of his youth has returned to this wheelchair bound old man. He’s not helpless in a home, he’s just a man dancing with a woman.
And I’ve received as much, if not more, than I gave.

I wish I had more time to devote to doing fun stuff with my residents, but we do the best we can in the odd three-minute-stretches we can spare from the mad race of a shift.

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