The Latest from Lola's Diner

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Caregiver's Caregiver

It's been difficult to figure out how to follow Saturday's post Today's Post Is Dedicated To My Mother, but I've had this idea for a post rattling around in my head since Anastasia started her part time job and since reading these really horrible headlines:

Former Itasca Nursing Home Worker Arrested.

Death of Man Found Duct-taped To Chair Ruled Homicide.

Anastasia has found a part-time job as a caregiver. One of the people she cares for is a 91 year old woman who is in a nursing home. The woman has dementia and is a frail little woman, but feisty. Her family, from what Anastasia has learned so far consist of 2 daughters. The daughters take turns, daily it seems, to be with their Mother at lunchtime and now Anastasia is with her at dinnertime and bedtime. Part of Anastasia’s job is to give some respite to these women who were also juggling the dinnertime and bedtime visits. Anastasia gives full reports to the sister whom she was hired by. After the first weekend on the job this woman just cried tears of joy at having found someone caring who could give her some breathing space. Taking care of a parent while trying to keep up with your own responsibilities is a challenge.

The nursing home appears to be a higher end facility and for all intents and purposes seems to be a nice facility. One would ask why would these daughters feel the need to be there at lunchtime, dinnertime and bedtime? These daughters want to insure that their Mother eats and has a pleasant bedtime experience. It is fairly common for the elderly, especially at such an advanced age, to not eat enough to maintain their health. This is especially true for those who are unable to feed themselves. They also want someone there to insure her safety at bedtime.

It’s really a sad commentary about our society when we need a caregiver to oversee the caregivers we hire for our elderly. This is just about what it amounts to. The nursing home is supposed to insure safety, insure the elderly are well nourished and insure that they have activities that they enjoy.

Anastasia helps this woman eat her evening meal because she no longer has the manual dexterity to handle feeding herself. She talks with her, reassures her when she has confused thoughts or has an episode where she reenacts past conversations. Anastasia also does activities with her and reads to her. Sometimes the woman remembers her, sometimes not. Sometimes the woman is so happy to see her she just grabs Anastasia's hand and kisses it over and over, almost as if to say I haven't had a visitor in ages and I really love to have you visit. Of course in reality her daughters are there every single day.

Anastasia has seen what bedtime is like for this elderly dementia patient and it can be quite disturbing. The staff members change her diaper, remove her clothing and put on her pajamas while only explaining what they are doing once. The first night a staff member remarked, “this is when she gets out of control”. That’s the time that this frail little woman fights back by hitting, kicking, punching and screaming. Anastasia was horrified. She went to school for psychology and she could not understand why the staff members were not calmly and repeatedly stating what they were doing. Something like “ok Jane, we’re going to get ready for bed now, we’re going to get ready and take off your blouse, now we're going to take off your pants, etc. Jane we’re going to get ready for bed now, we’re just going to get into our pajamas, etc.” Imagine how much more calm the bedtime ritual would be to calmly and peacefully explain what you were doing, repeatedly, while you did it? Anastasia said, for all this poor dementia patient knew she was going to be raped. Think about it, they are taking off her clothing, removing her diaper. If you didn't have all your faculties, what would you think? How much more effort could it take for the staff at this nursing home to just speak in a kind voice and explain over and over as they got their patients ready for bed? How much more pleasant could that make it for both the staff member and the patient?

Lola's Diner


Patricia Rockwell said...

Yes, such a demanding job requiring amazing skills and the pay is the lowest of the low. It certainly shows how much our society values our elders.

Jen said...

Anastasia has a gift. I'm so happy for this woman that she not only has two very dedicated daughters but also that they have the desire to hire someone like Anastasia.

My mother was in a very nice assisted living home before she went to the nursing home. It was not much more than a country club. The care was good but the staff were over worked and underpaid. My mother was one of those ladies that made sure she had candy always on hand to give to the staff. They staff would often sneak in during the day and hang out with my mother. Unfortunately their faces changed with every shift and because of the low pay the turnover was high. She is in a private care facility now where the ratio is considerably smaller than before. There is no easy answer but if our government is going to spend all our money I'd like to see it going to pay these people, and our school teachers, rather than the failing auto industry.

Kelly said...

Wow, it's so hard to think how we warehouse our loved ones. God bless Anastasia!

On The Verge said...

Anastasia is an angel. I was a caregiver for a few years and it is terribly hard, under paid work. It takes a special person to take care of others. They are lucky to have her.


caregivingdaughter said...

Yes, I wish we lived closer to you guys! I agree with all the comments, nursing homes jobs are often the bottom of the barrel. I hate the idea of Mom having to be in one because I KNOW she would be difficult to care for. There really needs to be a lot of reform and transparency in this area.

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