I had planned to write a piece from the point of view of the administrators; what it must be like to walk in their shoes. Such pieces help me connect on a deeper level with others. I sat down at my keyboard and closed my eyes for a moment, trying to imagine the chaos and stress that my bosses must feel in order for it to translate into such dysfunction on the floor. But nothing came. All that kept popping in my head was that the call bell system didn’t work. How does that slip through the cracks? HOW DOES THAT SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS? What’s worst is that I told the owner of the facility that it was on the fritz a year ago.
Ok, Alice. Try again. Deep breath. Think about all the paperwork and pressure to keep up the census. Think about all the complaints they must hear from both residents and staff. Think about how they have to fix specific situations in order to meet state regulations…but…census IS up and staff is poorly paid and badly scheduled. Honestly, every month they put out three to five schedules! And most of the situations they have to fix could have easily been prevented had they listened to those of us on the floor in the first place. Had they not placated the residents with empty promises and then dismissed their concerns.
Ok. This is going nowhere. Think of this as a business. It’s not a nonprofit. People have a right to earn a living…except I know how much my folks pay each month to live in this place. And I know how much Medicaid and Medicare cover. And I know that the combination of disorders is not healthy. And I know my residents living with severe mental illness are not getting the kind of care they need. And I know the “house” doctor pops up every two weeks supposedly visiting eight-twelve residents in under thirty minutes; and after several YEARS, still can’t remember their names. I know that they shuffle around my folks with no warning and no thought to the impact such changes have on the people…
That’s when I realized that this was an exercise in futility. I was too angry. I AM too angry. They deserve better. The sheer courage it takes to live with such debilitating challenges should give them a pass at a decent quality of life. They deserve better than the best I can give in these circumstances, better than the system provides and certainly better than the passing acknowledgment that they happen to live where the administrators work. As if my residents are in the way in their own home.
It’s not MALICE that drives administrators. It’s apathy. Greed. Maybe fear of losing their own jobs. Its ignorance and they lack both the willingness and the interest in learning from anyone other than their peers. The trouble is that their peers are also in the office, far away from the reality on the floor.
THEY aren’t the ones in the in-services learning more about mental health. They aren’t the ones being taught about the importance of consistency and how to successfully redirect certain behaviors without robbing a person’s dignity. They aren’t out there every day learning folks through trial and error. They are not solution oriented problem solvers. At least not in my facility. They are surface level friendly, but the times I’ve tried to discuss the real, underlying issues, they completely closed ranks and shut down.
They are not interested in open communication. They are not interested in supply shortages or unreasonable workloads. They don’t bother themselves with how things truly are, only with how they appear to be. They dismiss us and in doing so they dismiss the people for whom we care.
I admit that it isn’t my incredible boundary setting skills that make me good at my job. I am unable to detach enough from my residents and my own experiences to objectively see through the eyes of my administrators. What I do see clearly is the end result of bad decisions and poor leadership. Could I do it better? Who can say. I do know that the one thing I wouldn’t be is apathetic. Because I started out as a caregiver; because I am by nature a caregiver, I believe I would have a very different bottom line.
I mentioned earlier that I’m angry. That is true enough but anger is a surface feeling. It masks deeper emotions that are more difficult for us to face. Feelings like disgust and heartbreak over the idea that we, as a society, take little issue with “warehousing” our sick and elderly. Our ability to simply embrace this “out of sight, out of mind” mentality with fellow human beings, dismissing people who have lived and experienced more in their lifetime than most could imagine rather than embracing and learning from them. I also fear that reality, because like it or not, we are all on the road to that same destination. The day will come when the line between “them” and “us” will no longer exist.
I don’t need to walk in the administrator’s shoes. I would rather use them as an example of how I do not want to be, regardless of where I may land. I know and feel all of these truths. They feed my commitment. No matter what path my life may take, I will not stop advocating for those living in these facilities. I will not stop shining a light of their truths and on ours. I will tell our stories. If we give our all every single day in an attempt to change their lives for the better, maybe nothing will come of it. But if we DON’T try; if we just accept the status quo, then DEFINITELY nothing will come of it. These people are more than worth the effort. They are more than just residents. They are my friends.