Honorary Grandparents

 May

In compliance with HIPAA, all resident names and identifying details have been altered. Also, this story did not happen recently.

It’s always strange, coming back to work after extended time off. . .anything longer than a three day weekend. I always seem to think that I’ll lose some skills (or worse, speed) when I come back. I’m not sure where I acquired this idea, nor why I hold onto it.
On the one hand, nothing changes while you’re gone: there’s still too many residents and not enough aides. The work doesn’t change. On the other hand, a lot can change in almost a week. One resident can pass away, another could fall. Mr. J can change from being a standing lift to a hoyer. The residents with more advanced dementia can forget me entirely, others assume the worst from my absence.

Take Mrs. N for example. As soon as she opens her eyes and sees me standing by the foot of her bed, an expression of pure relief floods her face.
“May, you’re back! Did you decide not to abandon us after all?” she asks, grasping my hands as soon as I set her tray down at her beside table.
I’m still worn out from the week I’ve has, so I convey my confusion about her inquiry with an ineloquent but effective syllable: “Huh?”
“You left us,” she says reproachfully. “But I suppose I can forgive you as long as you don’t quit again and leave me.”
“Quit?” I repeat. This is the first I’ve heard about a change in my employment status. “Honey, I didn’t quit.”
“You were gone for so long! And you didn’t tell me goodbye, or say you wouldn’t be here for a while.”
“It wasn’t that long,” I protested.
“It was forever!” she insists, still clinging to my hand. “Well, if you didn’t quit, where did you go?”
I thought I’d be stronger…but then again, how would I know? I’ve never been in this position before. All I know is that now I’m crying again. Sometimes it feels like the tears will never stop, that the pain will never dull.
“I had to bury my grandmother,” I sob out; then Mrs. N pulls me down beside her and holds me until I stop crying.
“Sorry,” I sniffle.
She waves her hand at this, dismissing my embarrassment like so much nonsense. As she looks at me with sympathy, I can see a thought forming behind her eyes. It seems to grow until she can shape into words and says, in a soft, hesitant tone: “Can I be your grandmother now?”
And once again, I get choked up. I pride myself over my command of words, but none will come now and so I just nod my head vigorously, and grip her hands tightly.

The bonds that form between caregiver and resident are often deep. We see each other at our very best, at our worst and every mood in between; we pour so much of ourselves into each other. I am still a girl without a grandma, still hurting from that loss. But it helps, in a way I couldn’t have imagined, to have so many of my residents glad of my return, and willing to share in my grief.
I seem to have a lot of honorary grandparents.

A Call to Arms

photo
Alice

“I have to stop. This is getting ridiculous.”, I thought. It was my day off and I accidentally-on-purpose stumbled into the world of online news articles…two hours earlier. It wasn’t the articles that I found so disturbingly riveting. If I had learned anything this election cycle, it was to find and get my information from legitimate and objective sources and to stay away from opinion pieces disguised as fact. No. It wasn’t the articles. It was the comments section. I had jumped down a rabbit hole into a world in which I had no business being.
The level of hostility driven by fear took my breath away. Comment after comment of anger and name calling; fully grown adults incapable of completing a thought without using expletives, their words screaming off of my computer screen. It did not matter what side of the pointless argument they took. This was equal opportunity rage and poor behavior and it fed off itself; a snowball effect of dark emotion fueled by the safety of anonymity. It was as if no one recognized that they were talking to other human beings and it is bleeding into the world beyond the World Wide Web.
That’s when it hit me. We caregivers have a unique opportunity in this climate. I know this sounds like a stretch, but follow me here for a minute. In my capacity as a caregiver, I have had clients and residents from just about every walk of life: Rich, poor, black, white, middle eastern, Mexican, gay, straight, super religious and die hard atheists; people living with a variety of physical and mental disorders and people from all sides of the political spectrum. None of that mattered. The very nature of our work depends on seeing people beneath their disorder and knowing who they are in order to provide the best quality of care. Personal disagreements on politics or religion in no way factored in and because of this I have learned from those with whom I wouldn’t ordinarily have had the opportunity to engage and have been blessed with many close friendships that often arise from the caregiver/ client relationship. I have never, not one single time viewed a client as simply one thing. I didn’t think of them as their disorder, race, religion, politics or whether or not they were private pay. I know them by their stories, by what they share with me and their personalities. We, as caregivers, do this naturally. It becomes second nature. We remind those in our care that they are human beings, first and foremost, and deserve to be treated with dignity. Imagine if we collectively used those lessons we learned from our work on every person we meet. Imagine if we could teach those lessons to others by our actions. Wouldn’t THAT be a movement worth starting!
As a society, we have to stop allowing the worst of our anger and fear to dictate our behavior. We can not allow ourselves to pigeonhole others to the point of only seeing our differences. We have to do better than this. I think those of us in the caregiving field have a responsibility now to apply our expertise to the world at large. We have a deeper calling. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day so I would like to end this plea with the man who said it so much better than I ever could and who backed his words with his actions:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

”I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”






Nursing-home-made

Sunflower May

In compliance with HIPAA, all resident names and identifying details have been altered or removed. 

It’s funny, how a person’s possessions can tell us so much about them. Most new residents come in with very little: just the clothes they wore in the hospital and maybe a small bag. Then, their families either start bringing in loads of stuff…or they don’t. I have seen rooms so crammed full of personal mementoes that it’s hard to care for the resident; so many clothes in the closet that the door won’t shut and every surface covered with knick-knacks.
I have also seen rooms bare weeks after the resident moved in, the only proof of occupation being the person in the bed. Only a few clothes, no knick-knacks…no decorations or pictures.

Mrs. L seems to be one of the latter category. After a week, she still only has the one bag that she had clutched so tightly on the first day, plus a couple outfits. They’re nice, but the kind of nice that has been worn for years and years. Her family comes often, but they seem more stressed each time and their visits get progressively shorter.
There’s always a learning curve, some time required to start feeling comfortable in the new environment…but Mrs. L doesn’t appear to be adjusting at all. She won’t leave the room, she hardly eats and from what I can tell, she seems to spend most of her days screaming into her phone and crying. I decide I can’t kept walking past such agony. We don’t know each other very well, but that’s about to change.
“Hey, can I sit down?” I ask, walking into her room and gesturing to the empty chair (provided by the facility) that sits by her bedside. She shrugs and I take that as permission. Good Lord, but it feels wonderful to get off my feet.
“I’m May, if I haven’t introduced myself before,” I add…although I’ve introduced every day this week. “Do you need anything?”
She shakes her head. I’m trying to decide between asking another question and telling a story about myself when she suddenly starts talking.
“You can’t help, nobody can help. Can you make me better? Can you tell the insurance company not to be assholes? Can you give my family a fortune so they won’t have to sell my house to afford ‘getting me the help I need’? Can you buy back everything of mine they had to sell, so I don’t have to look at bare walls while I wait to die?”

I can’t. I can’t wave a magic wand and sort out the economy, endow her with the money she needs to have a good life even though she is now elderly and disabled.
The only magic I have at my disposal are my imagination and my hands. I stay for a few minutes, now holding her hand as she cries yet again, then I slide off the chair and leave the room.
It only takes a few words in the right ears. When I come back, I’m not alone and we aren’t empty-handed.
We disperse over the room, laying out our various offerings. The Laundry department brought up clothes that have been donated to the nursing (usually by families of resident who have passed away in our care); Activities gave several left-over decorations from the various Arts-and-Crafts over the years. Nursing gathered personal care items from the supply room and arranged them in her drawers. Staff from every department drew pictures and scribbled down nursing-home-made Get Well cards…but the best bit came from a fellow resident. She heard of my cheering-up campaign and told me to pick out the prettiest flowers from the bouquet she got for her birthday and give them to that “poor lady”.

Small acts of kindness in Long-Term Care are not whistling in the dark. With each act of compassion, we light a candle. True, it will take a lot more candles than I can personally light to lift the shadow of greed from our broken system…but that’s the funny thing about kindness. Even when it’s not enough to turn the tide, change the culture or right the wrongs of this world––it is still appreciated and it can still mean the world to that one person.

My hope is that, one day, we will have more to give than what we can scrape up. I hope that one day, compassion will be considered along with costs, that questions of ethics will be given equal standing with questions of economics. 

The Trenches

photo
Alice
Throw me in the trenches. Put me in the most challenging situations; places that no one in their right mind would stay for any length of time. Throw me into a household where the family’s ideals are vastly different than my own and my client’s husband needs almost as much care as she does. Let it be a reminder to me that we are all more than one thing and I don’t pick the traits or opinions of those within my care. My job is to foster their independence, not to dictate what that should look like.
Surround me with those who have lived so long believing that they were broken that they have lost hope so that I can remind them of who they are beyond their disorder.
While it’s true that I have my moments when I wistfully wonder what it would be like to work in a well run facility where everyone is treated well from the residents on up or for an agency without the complications that arise from being an independent home caregiver solely responsible for setting my own work boundaries, I know in my heart of hearts that is not where I am meant to be…at least for now.
I cut my teeth in caregiving in a facility on which I later blew the whistle. It was there that I saw the deep flaws in the Long Term Care system. It was there that I learned the value and depth to be found in our field. It was through trying to improve that particular facility that I realized that the problems were much bigger than one place and that creating real and lasting change would be a marathon, not a sprint. It was through my journey into private care that I was forced to set work boundaries. It’s given me the freedom to really explore the depth in which good quality care can impact not just my client but also her family. There are times when the long hours in a small environment with only my client and her husband test my patience, but it has also strengthened my ability to redirect and listen on a deeper level. It has forced me to think outside of what I know in order to be a better and more effective caregiver.
The truth is I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to be so far removed from the problems that I forget why I began this journey in the first place. So, for now, I choose to stay in the trenches. It’s where I can do the most good. Some people can’t see the forest for the trees. Some can’t see the trees for the forest. I see the forest and I will spend my life in a variety of ways and levels trying to improve it, but I must never forget that it is the individual trees that make up the forest who inspired in me the will to fight in the first place.

Broken System vs Personal Responsiblity

Sunflower  May

In compliance with HIPAA, all resident names and identifying details have been altered or removed.

If there’s a story of my career in health care, it’s probably: Nothing happens the easy way, or when I have time to deal with it. Take right now, for instance.
Mr. K has a reputation for being a jokester; he loves to laugh and he loves to make others laugh. The aides are his best audience as we always appreciate a bit of levity. Unfortunately, Mr. K doesn’t so much speak as he does mumble. It’s hard to understand him…especially when he’s cracked up laughing at his own joke. I know from experience that if I keep just repeating that I can’t understand him, his joy will vanish like his independence. So, I lean down and put my face right next to his mouth, in order to catch the words of what I am assuming is a killer joke. When he repeats himself yet again, I don’t take in his words. I can’t; I’m a bit distracted.
His breath is so foul, it smells like something died in it.

I didn’t brush his teeth this morning. I haven’t brushed his teeth all week. As I gag, I ask myself “How did this happen?”

Oral care is often the last part of personal care to be done, and by the time I get to it, I’ve been in the room for fifteen minutes already and ten other call lights are going off. It seems like a quick task, so it’s easy to say “I’ll get to it in a moment,”…and then never actually find time for that moment. When you’re scrambling just to change your people, making the time to do oral care is hard. Adding another five minutes to each resident’s personal care time, when you have ten residents and you’re already running behind…yeah, that adds up quick. Sometimes it is literally a choice between brushing Mr. K’s teeth or changing Mrs. L’s brief before she soaks through her pants. In other words: when you only have ten minutes, what is the most effective way to use them? Most often, we choose the big problems to tackle, the things that have an immediate impact on our residents’ quality of life.
The other problem is that we get so used to dealing with emergencies, crunch-times and hard decisions. We get so used to cutting corners just to survive the day that we form habits around the emergencies. The little things that we had to drop during the crisis? We forget to pick them back up. We get used to not brushing teeth.

The problem of oral care is the problem of this broken system of long-term care, narrowed to razor-thin focus: too few aides taking care of too many residents. We have a system that punishes the aides who take the time to provide good care, and then punishes them again for providing mediocre care. And yet, for all that is true, Mr. K’s mouth still smells like something died in it. I am still his aide…do the flaws of the system really absolve me of my personal responsibility? Being a CNA is, in so many ways, to be forever caught in the moment of drowning: my best isn’t good enough and yet my best is always required.

I laugh, like I got the joke. “Good one, Mr. K! Tell you what, while you think of another one, I’m going to brush your teeth, ok?”

Dear Grams

photo
Alice
Dear Grams,
You recognized me when I came through the door on Christmas. You saw me and knew my name and knew that I loved you. For that I am happy, because I know the time is coming when I will look wistfully back on this holiday season and be grateful that I have that memory.
A rush of emotions flooded me as I stepped into the warm and welcoming home that has been the back drop for so many moments of my life. Suddenly, I was eleven and so excited because you were moving right down the street from me! I was fifteen and sitting with you as the family walked with my uncle through his last days. You were so strong without sharp edges. I was seventeen and didn’t have a date to the prom. You told me I was beautiful. You told me to just wait, that I would grow into myself. I was nineteen and lost. There you were, with love. Always believing in me despite my very best efforts to prove to the world I was a waste of time. I was twenty-three and heartbroken. You said what was meant to be will be.
I was twenty-six and in a dark place. You were there. I was in the grips of alcoholism. I was the worst version of myself and you refused to see that. In your eyes, I was still your girl. Some would argue that you were my biggest enabler. I suppose there is truth to that but you were also my biggest supporter. You cheered for me when I had nothing for which to cheer.
We lost Pop during that time in my life. Your husband of nearly sixty years; your best friend. I couldn’t be there for you like I should have been. He didn’t get to see the woman I finally grew into. I will always regret that. You? You soldiered on, despite the overwhelming grief I know you felt.
I was thirty-two. Dying inside and out. There was nothing you could do to “fix” me. I had to get help. I had to try something different and I was so scared. You said I could do this. I was thirty three and picked up a year sober. I called you and you were so proud. I could hear it in your voice and for once I felt that I earned it. I didn’t get to see you enough but we talked on the phone so regularly that I felt you were close. I was a caregiver and you said that it was a natural fit. I blew a whistle on a facility and you were not surprised. I was writing again and you said I could do whatever I put my mind to in life.
I was thirty-five and not having luck in the dating scene. You said be patient. You said I miss you. Come visit. But I didn’t have a car at the time and my work schedule was so hectic. These things were true but I should have made a way. I could tell you were having slips in memory. You said it was the price of a long life. It didn’t seem that bad. I was thirty-six. You were dancing at my brothers wedding. I was thirty-eight and took the bus down for Thanksgiving. I noticed the difference by then.
At some point, I stopped calling to seek guidance for my life and started calling to make sure that you were alright. I can’t pinpoint when that change took place. It was a subtle thief that robbed me of my confidant, my advisor, my rock while I wasn’t paying attention. Those phone calls became more and more difficult. I could hear your loneliness and confusion. You get angry. Eight years of taking care of people professionally and I couldn’t seem to do a single thing to help the woman who has taken care of me for so much of my life.
I am forty. But in your house I am forever a little girl. You used to get better when you had family around but that time has passed. You recognize me and you know that I love you. That has to be enough now. I know that but I don’t feel that. You’re alive and yet I am grieving the moments I can never get back and regret the time that I missed. The unconditional love that you graced me with and the closeness we have always shared is irreplaceable. My life without you in it just doesn’t make sense and despite everything I’ve learned from working in this field, I can’t imagine letting go.
You’ve always been the heart of our family, the glue that holds us together. You’ve been the strength and the sounding board. You’ve raised sons into extraordinary men and have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and every one of us adore you. I will carry all of your stories and hold onto the memories for you. You are always always with me and I will try to live up to the faith you always placed in me. I will try to make you proud.
Always your little girl,
Alice

Hangman Holidays

Sunflower   May

In compliance with HIPAA, all resident names and identifying details have been altered or removed. 

Perhaps the strangest part of being a healthcare worker emerges around the holidays. A lot of my family and friends talk about how what they are going to do with their time off; I wonder if I’m going to get any time off or if I’ll have to work extra this year again. 

This is by no means exclusive to healthcare…but it often feels like it. The debate that rages around stores being open during holidays is always “Why do they need to be open? We can shop/go to the movies/eat out/do whatever another day!” You can’t really say that about healthcare. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if all nursing homes and hospitals closed on Christmas, society would come to screeching, screaming halt. No one would celebrate and many would die from lack of care. 

So, nursing homes and hospitals must stay open during holidays, which means they must be staffed. Which means CNAs (among others) must give up their holidays to show up at work and care for their residents. 

The problem is, we want time off to celebrate with our families just as much as everyone else. There’s always an increased amount of grumbling during the holiday season as we try to squeeze family dinners into our few hours off,  have to wake the kids really early in order to them open presents on Christmas morning and miss our various religious services because of our hectic work schedule. There’s a bit of resentment that creeps in even the most dedicated hearts when we’re wearing scrubs while everyone else is dressing up. 

Scheduling around the holidays is like playing Hangman on steroids. It’s trying to guess who’s going to call in because she “deserves Christmas morning off”, who’s going to be cranky all day, who’s going to trade hours with whom. Some aides always seem to be able to get off, while other aides always seem to work every holiday. The reliable/really dedicated aides get called out like vowels during a game of Hangman, which creates its own kind of resentment when you’ve worked doubles on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and then you’re also asked to work New Year’s Day. 

It’s not all bad. I love being with my residents on holidays…just as long as I get a chance for me to celebrate as well. Really, it’s the usual short-staffed story, just exasperated because of all the holiday cheer and emphasis our culture puts on having time off and family get-togethers.

How do you all cope with the craziness of the holiday season at work?

A Potentially Explosive Christmas Eve

photo
Alice
I don’t know how to make a turkey…WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?! I carefully re-read the instructions. Add one teaspoon of all purpose flour to baking bag to prevent it from exploding. Nothing about that sentence sounded right. I had spent the last forty minutes searching my client’s cabinets for all purpose flour to no avail and it was getting dangerously down to the wire if I wanted this turkey to be cooked by the time her family came over to eat. Finally, on the bottom shelf I spied a crumpled bag covered in white powder. Fingers crossed, I pulled it from the dark recesses of the cupboard. Damn. Bread flour. Well, here’s to hoping bread flour has the turkey bag explosion prevention ingredient.
Green bean casserole, an experimental stuffing concoction, mashed potatoes, Waldorf salad…I was freaking Martha Stewart without the insider trading rap sheet. Still, I had more than one moment as I rushed between care and cooking when I realized that I had probably taken on too much of a challenge. Especially considering the fact that after work, I had a five hour road trip to see my family.
My client had a rough night of pain, but she was still determined to enjoy Christmas Eve with her family and I was damn well determined to make certain it happened for her. There was no time for exploding turkeys. The day went by in a blur. By the time I had her washed, dressed, and comfortably resting in her chair, the green bean casserole was done, potatoes peeled and boiling, and potentially deadly exploding turkey in the oven. The kitchen was covered in apple and potato peels and I was covered in whatever the hell bread flour is and seriously questioning my sanity.
Finally, everything was done. The table was set. The stockings were stuffed with odds and ends that I picked up at the grocery store the day before, the tree was glowing. By the time her family arrived, all my client’s afternoon meds were finished and she could enjoy the time completely free of worries and I was able to breathe and relax a bit.
I watched everyone enjoy the feast, surprised and grateful at the spread on the table, including the turkey that I pulled out of the oven in one piece. I watched as they opened the gifts, laughing and making a mess of the wrapping paper. I listened as my client’s three year old granddaughter explained the very important role of Elsa in the movie Frozen. I watched the first happy Christmas my client has had in years and felt great pride in being a force behind it.
There is a lot about private care that isn’t a natural fit for me. But this day…this day that took a month of behind the scenes work from the Christmas decorating to the family dinner, is why I do what we do.

Learning to Let Go

photo
Alice
Learning to Let Go
There are some aspects of this field with which I will never be comfortable. Being covered occasionally in body fluids is a cake walk, long shifts are usually no big deal. I quickly learned to adjust my pace and tone of voice to those in my care. I absolutely love working with people from all walks of life to solve every day problems, big or small. After nearly a decade, even death itself has lost its bite. I don’t mean to imply that such events are always easy to cope with or don’t come with pain. It’s just that after a certain amount of time in our work, death becomes the natural end of a journey we began together. For the most part, we caregivers enter our clients’ and residents’ world in the last chapter of their lives. Death is not an event over which we have any control. Leaving is.
Lately, I’ve been considering making a change. It isn’t that I don’t love the family in my care and it isn’t the money. I’ve enjoyed this sojourn into private care and my understanding of what it means to be a caregiver has deepened because of it, but now I want to explore new avenues and branch out. There is a new facility in town that has been designed by women who worked for years in this broken system and decided to do something about it. Person centered plans, amazing caregiver/resident ratio, beautiful grounds and owners who understand what is important from personal experience in the field. How could I NOT want to check out the possibilities?
Like so many of the most important opportunities in my life, this information landed in my lap. The timing was providential. I had just taken a short break in the middle of a particularly difficult shift and was contemplating how much I missed working in a facility when a text came from a friend of mine describing this new place. Alice! It’s a perfect fit for you! You HAVE to apply.
And then came the rush of excitement, immediately followed by the crash of guilt. How can I leave my client? How can I leave the whole family that both trust and depend on me? Such thoughts have always been a weakness of mine. On one level, they motivate me to give my all to my clients and residents regardless of where I may work. On the other hand, they prevent me from moving forward.
Caretaker personality, co-dependent tendencies, avoidance of conflict, fear of letting people down, lousy boundary setting skills. I get it. I have all the ingredients for that gigantic tossed salad of crazy, but I successfully work through such traits in a manner that promotes a healthy and vibrant life in most areas. They do pop up in my line of work, though. Especially when I’m considering change. Such complex emotions come from a good and genuine place within my heart. It’s those same feelings that motivate me to do my very best in every way that I can to improve the lives of others. It stems from empathy. It’s only when I let those instincts go awry that I become the master of my own misery.
The truth is I know change is not only inevitable but it’s also healthy. On an intellectual level, I am aware that the world won’t stop spinning because I consider other avenues in caregiving. Both my client and her family survived long before I got there and they will survive after I leave. And I haven’t even APPLIED for the facility yet. I’m putting the cart before the horse, here. I get that…Still. It’s a difficult thing to let go once the bond is formed between a caregiver/client. It SHOULD be difficult. If it were easy for me to walk away; if I could just brush off someone who has trusted and depended on me for over a year without flinching then I’d need to reconsider why I am in this field. That’s a level of cynicism that I hope I never reach. There are some aspects of this field with which I will never be comfortable. And I am okay with that.

Break Interrupted

Sunflower  May

In compliance with HIPAA, all resident names and identifying details have been altered or removed to protect patient privacy. 

“I need a break!”
With these words, I sweep into the room, startling the occupants.
“So,” says Mrs. R, “go to your break room.”
“Can’t, they’ve already looked in there for me,” I sigh as I drop down on Mrs. R’s bed…it’s the one farthest from the door and it’s the empty one. For good measure, I pull the privacy curtain down to the foot of the bed and arrange my legs so that you can’t see tell-tale nursing shoes from the door. I don’t dare close the door: I wouldn’t be able to listen for call-lights and nothing screams “CNA in here!” louder than a closed door.
Mrs. E, the resident in the first bed, rolls back over and goes back to sleep. She’s always resting her eyes; meal times are her favorite nap times of all. Mrs. R, sitting up in her wheelchair, turns away from the window to look at me…apparently, I’m more interesting than the birds outside. “What do you mean, they looked in the break room for you?” she asks. “It is the law that you have two ten-minute breaks and, knowing you, you probably haven’t taken them already. Tell them to go away.”
I just stare at her. “How do you know that?”
“I listen,” she replies, a bit smugly. “You would have to be completely deaf not to learn every detail of the working conditions here. Someone is always complaining.”
“Um…sorry. I try not to complain in front of you guys––”
“Quit changing the subject. Why don’t you just tell them to go away and leave you alone on your break?”
“Because then they just say ‘Oh, when you’re done’. It’s not one of those things worth kicking up a fuss over. I’m sure if I went and complained to the DON, there’d be an in-service for everyone to sign…and nothing would change. Everyone would continue to interrupt my breaks for the stupidest crap.”
I sound bitter, I realize. The thing is, being fetched out of the break room during one of my few breathers never fails to irritate me. I only take my ten minute breaks when I’m about to snap, but today there is no escaping the madness. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when my nurse stormed into the break room right after I’d gone in, to tell me to get back out on the hall because “there are too many call lights for one person to keep up with”. I think she meant “one CNA” because she has said before that she is “above aide work” and I’ve never once seen her answer a call light.
The next chance I had to take a breather, I decided the break room was not a safe place to take it––so here I am, seeking refuge from the demands of my residents in the company of my residents. Funny how things work, sometimes.

Mrs. R looks at me steadily for a minute while I swing my feet. “That nurse today is lazy,” she declares. “Next time, tell the person interrupting your break to go to hell.”
“Mrs. R!”
“Or, better still, tell them to take care of the crap themselves.”
“Do you really want the nurse you call ‘lazy-ass’ to be the one taking you to the bathroom?” I grin.
“Yes. Then I could fart in her face.”
It’s a good three minutes before I catch my breath enough to answer. Mrs. E grumbles about the noise and tries to burrow deeper into the covers.
“Oh, Mrs. R, never change,” I tell her, still giggling.
“I’m sure I’ll change a bit when I die,” she says. “Can you cuss in Heaven?”
I shrug. “I don’t know, Mrs. R. But I’ve got to get back work now. Thank you for the refreshing break!”
“No, you don’t,” she replies. “You have four more minutes. Sit your ass back down and tell me about what’s going on in your life. Then, you can take me to the toilet. I promise not to fart in your face.”