Who’s taking care of whom?


Why am I here again? Oh, yes: when I was laying on the couch, it didn’t hurt so very much, so I thought I was ready to come back to work.
A hint? I wasn’t.
“It,” is broken foot I managed to acquire. I was off for a week, and then cleared to return to light duty.

The problem with light-duty, of course, isn’t that its vaguely worded…no, my doctor sent me back with very specific instructions on exactly what I can and cannot do.
There are advantages to having a massive medical boot strapped to my feet: I can knock properly with full hands full. Just lift my foot and let it drop down…ignore the flash of pain. I am quite good at pretending I’m not in pain.
My problem is that no one else is willing to share in my delusion.
“What the hell is that racket–oh honey!” Mrs. R, a resident who hasn’t walked in years, stares at my foot with a rather fierce expression of concern.
“Do you want to use my wheelchair?” she asks.
I laugh…mostly because I would, very much, like to take her up on this offer. It would be heaven to get off this foot, I think.
“No, but thank you. I can’t take your wheelchair.”
“Should you be here?”
“The doctor cleared me for light duty,” I reply with a smile. At least, I try to smile. Judging from the frown I’m receiving, I gather I didn’t quite succeed. I change out her ice pitcher and escape to the next room.
Mr. T glances up from his newspaper at my uneven footsteps.
“Oh, no,” he sighs. “I was hoping they were exaggerating. You be careful with yourself from now on!”
His roommate, who is supposed to be napping, cracks open an eye.
“Did you hurt yourself, honey?” he mumbles.
Before I even get the chance to open my mouth, Mr. T says “Yes, she broke her foot!”
He sounds a bit gleeful but also concerned. Sorry that there is bad news, but happy that he has a bit of gossip to share, I decide.
His roommate turns to me and says in worried tone: “Who is going to take care of me while you’re hurt?”
“There’s plenty other aides,” I assure him. “And my foot will heal soon.”
“Well, I don’t like it,” he says. “Why don’t you take my wheelchair?”

Who is taking care of whom? Our residents depend on us for practically everything, but sometimes I feel like I’ve got dozens of elderly folk trying to take care of me from their beds and wheelchairs.
The relationships that form aren’t a one-way bond; it’s an odd sort of give-and-take, but caring flows both ways. It’s like an amalgam of parent-child bonds, with the resident playing both parts. Worried for me because they have dubbed themselves my “honorary grandparents” and worried for themselves because I’m the one who takes care of them and I’m injured.

By the time I finish my ice round, I could have had my pick of almost any wheelchair and walker in the building.
Although my foot aches like the devil, I’m smiling. It’s nice to be cared for…though I do feel half-smothered!

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