It is our pleasure to welcome Edison Terrell as a guest contributor on CNA Edge. We think his stream of consciousness style is both entertaining and thought provoking. Terrell is currently writing a book based on his experiences as a caregiver in a long-term care facility. The working title of the book is I Take My Pills with Ice Cream.
It’s maddening that so many executive directors are seat-of-the-pants drivers in a business that inherently only runs when it’s running perfectly. You can talk all you want about aides not doing “enough”; about there being a dissonance between aides and nurses that shouldn’t exist; about how the financials don’t add up for us to have another aide on a floor, but our nonprofit made $50 million last year and you should be proud of yourselves! At the end of the day we’re the invisibles keeping the machine greased and powered, noticed when things go wrong, when there’s a buck to be passed.
I don’t feel unappreciated, that’s not what I’m saying. I don’t expect the CEO to stop calling me “Matt” when I’m clearly Will. I don’t even look like a Matt. I’m one of a sea of faces, recognizable maybe because of my lazy eye or the fact my black scrubs, hefty imposing frame, big beard, and curled in, defensive, timid shoulders make strike a schizophrenic figure. And for all his comradely bullshitting, reminding me we’re both from Massachusetts, putting on our annoying accents, talking about “‘cahs’ and ‘pahks’ and how we like to drive ‘thehe’ to eat ‘frankfahtas'” I know he’s just a bullshitter. I can see it in his eyes. They shine in an over-bright sort of way, backlit from within like he’s got a lightbulb for a brain, painted green for money. That’s all he sees in me. Not a large pair of scrubs, just a means to an end.
It doesn’t bother me so much that my CEO smiles too big, too toothy, too tight around the corners like a mask, to be real. I’m not bothered by the way he fusses a strand of silk on his lapel and worries every wrinkle and crease in his suit. Nor does his silver crew cut bother me too bad. He likes to tell us he was raised in Southie and Dorchester (“Dohchestuh”), tough towns in their time, and I think the cut is to remind himself, and us, that even though his nails are professionally manicured and his face is soft-looking, he’s as tough as ever. I’m not a fighter, but this guy is 5’4, tops. Looks like the last time he could be in the ring with anyone was ten years in his rearview mirror. I’m not even all that bothered by the fact that he subtly guides you into the elevator when the doors open, putting his light, cream-color tanned hairy hand on my broad shoulder, as if without him to lead I might stand there like a dumb animal until the door closed.
Piecemeal my CEO doesn’t bother me, but taken as a whole entity, he and his cliquey little crew piss me right the hell off. Like the activity director with her tinkling, condescending little laugh. There’s nothing I can do about it, and on the whole things run semi-decently because of these towering titans at the top of the food chain. But for the most part it’s because of the people in middle management and below, sweating the tasks and responsibilities they’re given against the reality that we’re forcibly crushing two, three people jobs into one eight-hour shift some days. When we have a full allotment of aides we’re still short, somehow. A combination of our reckless executive’s practice of keeping wanderers in a unit without locks, putting the crazies in with the general population, basically.
I worry about what will happen here when I go back on full duty. While I’m on light I can be called upstairs to keep an eye on Gretta, whose husband is in skilled and who has crumbled mentally to a puppy-like state, following the aides, the dietary people, other residents, going into rooms looking for her spouse. It’s actually somewhat beneficial my back went out right around the time her husband Greg declined, but as soon as I go back Gretta will be unchained, free. Residents who don’t lock their doors will find her in their rooms when we’re not looking, and we’ll have to go running to turn her around, dropping whatever important thing we’re doing that can’t just be dropped to hump it back out into the hall and listen for wherever the sound of cursing is coming from. Stuff like that happens in memory care, too, where I’d argue she belongs, but there at least everyone is stealing everyone else’s stuff, or they’re not with it enough to care. We’re drilled to respect these people like they’re family, like we’re working in a microcosm, a small slice of Americana and this unit is their neighborhood. A sentiment I wholeheartedly, one hundred and ten percent agree with. Then the guys upstairs turf someone like this over here. Or hell, have a few.
When someone declines mentally, we write notes in the care plan, write notes to the administrator, talk to the nurses. If it’s not bad enough for state to put us in their sights nothing gets done. A person might bring it up at town hall to the director himself and he’ll give us the run around. There’s no place on the premises for them to go. We have to keep making money on them, we don’t have a memory care unit, so do your best until we break ground at the end of 2015.
It bothers me how hands-off these guys are. You never see them in your unit. I catch him canoodling with the independent people in the cafe, but they represent only a part of our community, and let’s be honest, the one needing the least of your attention. He tries to be like a father-figure, but if that’s his thing, he’s a father that dotes on the smartest, ablest sons and daughters, and leaves the others to the nanny. I know I’ve said this before, in different ways, online and off. I’m sure it’s everybody’s complaint. This isn’t anything new or incredible. It’s practically a requirement that getting to the top means becoming a cajoling sleaze bag. But it still bugs me…
Really, if he didn’t call me Matt I don’t think I’d have even written this.