by Desi Serda
I have to tell you working the night shift can be quite scary. I have worked at night when a radio in a residents’ room started blasted at full volume, when no one was in the room. The resident in the room was non ambulatory required assistance by staff to transfer to a chair or bed. At the time this happened we were doing our rounds and all three of us were working together. No one was up we could see the door to her room. No one entered or came out. I promise the three of us went into the room together to turn that radio down and it was unplugged. The hair on my neck stood up and on my arms. Oh that’s such a terrible scary feeling. I have to laugh none of us would go in that room alone at night after that. The public think we make these stories up but I am here to tell you we do not make them up, things happen that you just cannot explain.
I can honestly say, I have been blessed to be part of the greatest love stories of all and witness the absolute worst in families. It can be hard to tell you these stories because they are real, these are real people who lived these lives. People who blessed us with their stories because we became the only people who listened and still treated them with dignity making sure they knew they still counted. Especially, when families dumped them off and hardly ever came back. Sometimes I think the families resent staff when staff gets so close to their family members. I know that staff sure as heck resent families when they are butt heads and treat the residents bad. Families that in the last five years you have never met but show up when they are dying demanding we do this or that, it’s to appease their conscious not what the resident would have wanted. Those families we would love to tell to go jump in an acid lake. They might think they are fooling someone but as a care giver who daily places hands on your loved ones we know who has been there and who has not.
Of course you cannot judge all families by a set standard. Some families kept their loved ones home and took care of them until they themselves were unable to do it. Some families needed a break from care giving but visited as often as they could. These families were loving generous people who helped the staff, encouraged the staff with thank you and heartfelt acceptance that at times waiting is part of nursing home life. These beautiful families didn’t demand their loved one be placed ahead of anyone else, they sat entertained them so staff could get to the ones who needed to be taken care of first. Bless these families they made our lives so much easier.
I have changed all the names of everyone I am talking about of course. The names were changed to protect the identity of each person and their story. If you’re reading this please do not assume I am talking about your loved one. If I am, it is with the upmost respect. These residents have taught me so much.
I just knew he was behind me. Every day it was a battle “please put this hospital gown on.” “No”. You cannot walk around naked in the hallways. Raul laughed at me; zoom, out the door he goes. You have to laugh; I mean really what can you do? I can just see us wrestling him to the floor to put a gown on and get punched while doing it, for him to get a few feet away and bam it’s off again. He is always naked. I remember walking down the hall and just feeling he was right behind me. I glance over my shoulder nope he wasn’t there. A couple minutes later I look back and he scared the heck out of me he was right there I could have kissed his forehead he was so close. (Of course he was naked going to the TV room. It was in the evening, no visitors in the building I just let him go. I learned choose your battles.
Raul would just laugh and hurry away down the hall. He got me again. After he passed I know his spirit remained I could feel him standing behind me at times. The hairs on your neck stood up at times for months after he passed away. He never had any visitors. We learned later what a terrible life this poor man had lived, raped repeatedly as a child, sold to men for money so his family could eat. He spoke no English other than yes or no. He liked to laugh. He always said” la Cucaracha” and would just laugh. When he was in a really good mood he would bring his guitar down and serenade staff with La Cucaracha while standing their naked as the day he was born. When he was mad standing as tall as his 5 foot would allow, hands bunched in fists, held up like a boxer, looking you straight in the face “No”. You left him alone. He was the driver of his life and we were just along for the ride to keep him safe. I won’t forget him…ever. I truly believe god showed him mercy and took him home to be the man he was not allowed to be in this world.
This was Chapter 2 from There is Life in a Nursing Home by Desi Serda.
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