Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Get-Away Grannies

I've made several past references that I've worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in a nursing home.  I received on site training and found that this job, though extremely difficult, was rewarding on so many levels.  One would think that this type of employment would pay more than it does.  After all, the aides are caring in the most intimate ways for our loved ones.  Not so.  This is a very low paying position.  One either does this work because they love it or they desperately need employment.  This is frightening because I've personally seen what happens when aides don't love what they do.

I've written that I would share my memories of these beautiful people from time to time.  Their names have been changed to protect their privacy but their stories live on.  I vowed to one of the dear residents that I would never forget them.  Here's another piece of their story...


The Get-Away Grannies

Each week the aides would be re-assigned to a different hallway.  We would be responsible for between 8-10 patients on one side of each hall and be available to assist the other aide (our hall partner) if his or her patients needed a 2-person assist and for end-of-day rounds.  This process allowed the aides to stay familiar with all of the folks on each side of the building. 

Whenever I was assigned to Judy's hall I knew my afternoons were going to be somewhat hectic.  You see, Judy was the ring leader of a band of three women who had serious dementia.  Every day these ladies hatched a very elaborate scheme to escape from the nursing home.

Now what made this interesting is that Judy and her two cohorts, Trudy and Mabel, never remembered what they had done the day before.  The concept was always the same; Trudy and Mabel were to pack the bags (on the "sly"), Judy was to keep "a look out", and when everything was ready, they were going to "get the Hell outta here!"  It all sounded innocent enough.  I knew that Judy didn't have a car.  I knew that once the announcement was made for dinner, they would decide to eat before they left and go to bed afterwards.  Later, I would unpack the odd assortment of 8 sweaters, pair of miscellaneous dentures, 2 socks, 15 underwear, and some random necklaces and the process would start again the next day.  This continued until I caught Trudy and Mabel mistakenly going through another resident's closet.   This is when I needed to step in and become an unwitting accomplice to their plans.

Let me describe Judy.  She had a full head of shockingly white hair and no matter how much I combed it, it always insisted on standing straight up on end.  After her hair, her eyes were the next thing which caught my attention.  They were bright blue and almost popped from her face.  She repeated herself when she was frustrated or annoyed which was almost all the time.  She was in a wheelchair but she could shuffle her feet which gave her some mobility.  AND she cursed when she felt the moment deserved it, which seemed more often than not.

The day I discovered the packing mishap, I quickly knocked twice and wandered into Judy's room looking very unaware that anything was in the works.

"What the Hell are you doing in here, in here?!"

"Oh I'm sorry, Judy.  I was looking for Veronica's sweater.   Why there it IS!  Miss Mabel, why is it in your suitcase?  Are you going someplace?  I hope not.  I'll miss you!"

If there was a possibility that Judy's eyes could have exploded out of her eye sockets at Mabel they would have.  Mabel, was a tiny, frail little mouse of a lady and never spoke more than two words out of confusion and nervousness.  This time was no different. 

"It just so happens, so happens that we're hightailin' it outta' here and you can't stop us. Dammit!", muttered Judy who was clearly agitated by the way her feet were shuffling the wheelchair back and forth.

"Ok.  I get it.  I can't stop you if you're determined to leave.  Who's driving?"

I thought Judy was going to fall out of her chair.  Her frown turned into the widest grin I've ever seen.  It reminded me of the Grinch's grin from the classic Dr. Seuss holiday story.  It filled me with joy.  "I am.  I am.  I have a '57 Chevy.  It's parked 'round back, 'round back."

"Very nice.  Do you have enough provisions?"

Just before she answered, the evening dinner announcement was made.  All three of the ladies made a comment that they were getting hungry and that perhaps they should eat first.  I offered to help them one by one towards the dining room which they gratefully accepted.  During our walks, I wished them safe journeys and told them how much I enjoyed their friendships.  The next morning, when I arrived for work, the three Get-Away Grannies were at it again as if the day before had never taken place.

Post Script:  Weeks after I had been moved off that hall, I had the unfortunate surprise of seeing Judy in her wheelchair at the intersection of the nursing home.  I pulled over and managed to get my dear one back safely.  The CNA on her hall that week was obviously not keeping an eye out for her.  This is one of the frightening results of employees working because they need a job - not because they love what they do.