It’s the middle of the lunch rush and I have a problem. Mrs. A needs to go to the bathroom.
Well, that’s not quite right. My problem is that Mrs. A desperately needs to go, but she’s having trouble standing up. I’m having trouble supporting her; between the two of us, we can hardly get her bottom off the chair. I seriously don’t know how I’m going to her fully upright, or on the pot.
Again, that’s not fully true. The solution to my current problem is obvious…and right outside the door: the standing lift. Unfortunately, it’s a solution that just brings more problems: in my work place, all mechanical lifts are two-person devices. Using one by yourself is considered unsafe and grounds for immediate termination; we’re also a no-lift facility. If a resident requires lifting, we get the lift and someone to help us. It’s a policy designed to reduce CNA injuries, a policy I applaud.
But right now I have no help and a resident who desperately needs toileting. To make matters worse, her son is in the room, impatiently waiting…he’s never been particularly sympathetic or empathetic to us caregivers. I get the impression that he regards us as little more than vending machines of care. Press C5 for toileting needs, B3 for pain pills. Never mind that I’m not a nurse and can’t give out pills.
“All right, Mrs. A,” I say, “let’s try this one more time.” I’m hoping that she’ll stand up just fine, that my last attempt was a fluke or a test of patience, or something.
It’s not. This woman isn’t going to stand up without strenuous help from me. I know that I can do it, physically. I can pick her up in a bear-hug, wiggle the pants down and get her on the commode. It’s not her fault I have no help and she shouldn’t be punished for something she can’t help.
I do the right thing. I take her back out of the bathroom and explain that I’ll need to go get help. I explain that it might be a moment before I find that help and then I leave, avoiding the son’s irate glare.
After five solid minutes of looking, the first person I find is my nurse, hurrying off the hall.
“Hey, can you help me for a minute?” I ask.
“Can’t. Someone just fell in the dining room. Gotta go.”
Well, darn, I think. Just then a chair alarm sounds and I take off. Mr. W is attempting to put himself on the toilet…at least he can transfer, I think. He’s not very trust-worthy about pulling the call-light when he’s done, so I have to stay with him until he’s done.
Ten minutes later, I emerge back on to the hall, just in time to see my hall partner come out of Mrs. A’s room.
“Oh, good,” I sigh. “I’ve been looking for you. Mrs. A…”
“Is already taken care of,” the other aide interrupts.
“Oh, she stood up okay for you? I was having trouble–”
“So am I, working with a damn by-the-book aide. When are you going to learn, May, that you can’t be such a rule-follower if you expect to get the job done? If you have to pick somebody up, you pick them up. By the way, she’s soaked.”
With that, she walks off and I’m left with another problem. Mrs. A is on the toilet, sure, but I very much doubt that the other aide is going to help me get her off.
I’m right again. Not only is Mrs. A’s son visibly furious with me, Mrs. A is just as weak as she was fifteen minutes ago. And in tears. And soaked with urine.
I change her clothes and pull the call-light for help. If I’m honest, I’m furious myself: angry at being called “by-the-book” when I was only trying to protect myself and Mrs. A. I did the right thing, not the selfish thing, as the other aide was implying.
Seven minutes pass before the bathroom door opens.
It’s my supervisor.