Friday, September 28, 2007
Care and the Caregiver
For almost three weeks I've wanted to post about the job change, but something new would come up, and I'd think, "Wait til things settle a little". But some things don't take care of themselves. I am also eager to tell you about buying a house, but will save that for a later post.

I've been working in a nursing home since last Spring, and was struggling with several things about it. I've never had a Director of Nursing with such raw edges to her demeanor as this one. Her finger shaking "You will do this," or "You will not do that," would made me cringe, and I soon learned to mostly avoid her. My reaction to her didn't enhance our communication, and I would leave work exhausted from the mental struggle.

Not only that, I had built quite a fear in my mind about the possibility of bear showing up in the parking lot (the nursing home is in the foothills of mountains) and as if that wasn't enough to worry about, I began dreading the drive home late at night, once winter would arrive.

And besides all that, sometimes it felt like co-workers weren't very friendly. So what did I do about this? I relied on behavior learned long ago; and that was to just get away from it, and on my next day off shopped for a different nursing job. The first place I stopped hired me during the initial interview. They even gave me a two dollar an hour pay raise.

Not once during all of this did I remember that old warning about grass not being so green on the other side of fences. But I soon did. The new job included all phases of nursing care for 36 patients, and spending an hour in the dining room at supper, and taking care of phone calls and doctors' orders, and any emergency that surfaced, and I was to do all this, with only two nurses aids to help.

A while back I mentioned that this particular nursing home was where I began my long years of nursing. Many things about patient care are different now, and a major one is the amount of medicines they now get. A huge amount of a nurse's shift is spent giving them, and the amount of it keeps increasing. My first shift without help I was having to wake patients up late at night to take all those pills, and they so deserved better than that.

The first night I cried from exhaustion and stress, and the next night I cried more. Worrying about stray bear in the parking lot at night, or driving slippery roads in snow storms, I will learn how to deal with. But seeing poor old people pushing ninety years of life having to wait too long for help getting to the toilet, or needing an extra blanket, or pain medication, I cannot, will not be a part of that kind of care. If you're contemplating finding a good place for your Mom or Dad's last years, please check out more than the initial appearance of any nursing home. Visiting is allowed around the clock. Show up at meal time, and do some arithmetic. How many staff are trying to feed how many residents? Bedtime is another good chance to check on patient care. Count, count the number of nurses aides and how many people have to share them.

Sorry I got off track with the whole point here. I get steamed up about whether or not these old people get taken care of.

But back to my story. When my second night there wasn't any better than the first, I realized having only two aides to help me wasn't because others didn't show up, but that having only two is what management provides. Do you realize that each of the aides are to take care of almost eighteen residents!

When the shift finally ended I dragged myself home, and did a lot of thinking about all of this. And again, on a day off, I headed toward that place in the foothills, and talked with my previous boss, and left with a reasonable work schedule. The new place had scheduled me to work twenty two shifts in the next month, totally disregarding my telling them four a week was enough, with an occasional extra one when they needed it.

As I walked through the halls of my old job, a patient would recognize me, and say things like "Where've you been?" Staff from different departments were also friendly, and when they realized I wasn't leaving, let me know they were glad. And that sharp edged Director of Nursing greatly surprised me with an unexpected "Hello". Do you think perhaps my improved demeanor may have invited their friendlier response?

The Social Services lady was especially nice. She thought I had simply taken some days off, and when I explained I tried out a new job, and mentioned where, she paused, and smiled. "I worked there once myself," "But I had to leave too."

Then her tender eyes, so appropriate for her work, pierced mine. and she stated, more than asked, "But why would you leave here?" "I think I've figured it out," I replied. While I was building up unproven need for fear, and ripping people apart I don't have the right to judge, what I really needed was an attitude adjustment." This gracious lady then gave me another tender look as she patted my hand, and said, "I'm glad you're staying."

  posted at 10:21 AM  

Sunday, September 09, 2007
Looking For Love
"The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love". A Henry Scougal quote (from the Life of God in the soul of man) quoted by John Piper in the Pleasures of God.

When I read this week's CWO quote, I thought "This one will be easy". "I'll just tell them where I placed my love through the years", and when I'm done the picture of it will be clear. But before I write even the beginning of it I'm thinking, "How do I tell these Christian women all about this?

I remember feeling whatever love is when a grandparent would gave me a hug, But that was such a different time. No one knew then that we needed several of them every day.

In first grade the teacher decorated a box for the class to put Valentines in, and we had cup cakes with cute little candy hearts on them, but that's about all the teacher explained about whatever love is.

I was about eight years old, and so afraid no one would put cards in the box for me, I sent a few to myself, and then couldn't tell if anybody sent others. The dealing with love was already getting complicated.

I cannot remember tender words or caresses from my parents, except once when my father rubbed his unshaven chin against my face, and seemed to think it was humorous. It wasn't, it scratched. By seventh grade though, I was becoming aware of boys. Not that I ever got close to one then, for they were more shy than me. Time will never record how different my life might have been , if a boy named Arley Reynolds who couldn't talk to me for giggling, had been brave enough to take my little hand, or, God forbid, try to kiss me.

When I went to church, the preacher talked more about Hell Damnation, than he did about God, and that only taught me to be afraid. I still didn't know anything much about love and loving. But I did spend a lot of time with an aunt, and though she didn't say much about it, how she treated me was better than speeches, and I developed her attitude about caring and helping and encouraging others.

I went through a long, dry spell of twenty five years, in a marriage almost void of tenderness. So much so I was surprised, when after having a baby, a nurse washed my face with a cool wet cloth, and that human touch Bruce Springsteen sings so determinedly about brought sweet tears. Closer to now, when a daughter came to see me, one night we were talking like we did on many while she was here. When she started to go to bed she gently brushed my forehead with a quick goodnight kiss. It's a moment I will never forget.

As you know, moms get very busy while the children are growing, and that's where I placed my need to love others. Seeing them become good boys and girls and students was all the reward I needed.

But still, life can feel pretty empty sometimes. I know I did after finally divorcing. Entering the scene of this town's singles I didn't even realize how much I was fair game. But it certainly validated why women leave men like most of the ones I encountered. And it wasn't much better at my job. Most of the employees there were men. So I still wasn't much more enlightened about whatever love is suppose to be.

In my friendships with women I attracted needy ones, and formed the habit of thinking God put me here to fix their problems. Of course it never worked. As soon as I stopped solving them, they either reverted to former behavior, or found new ones for me to fix. If I'd been a regular church member then, the pastor would have found lots of work for me to do.

Somehow through those ill equipped years, not much educated, but even then, so wanting to learn, and to know and understand things better than I did, I believe our Lord put just the right books where I'd read them, really good ones like "Boundaries"and others that helped me understand it's not vain to have self regard.

Jesus spelled it out so clearly in the Bible, that we're to love others, as we love our selves. I don't know if it might be a Southern thing, for social rules for women there were heavily laden. Maybe it's like that all over, but those unspoken lessons we got in childhood about living, somehow left the idea that we're not suppose to value self esteem, like it's bragging, and not a nice thing, when those who don't acquire enough of it in early childhood, are at high risk to be narcissistic, one of the most serious mental illnesses there is.

I no longer attract those looking for bleeding hearts, but find more healthy relationships, where neither of us leans too heavily. Now I understand it's not being helpful to take on others' responsibilities. Whether it's family or acquaintances, I respect their need to have healthy pride in figuring out their lives. Through home study groups from the church I realized God gave me the task of being an encourager, and I thoroughly enjoy carrying out that mission. But every now and then, when I'm a little pensive, I still wonder how my life might have been, if I'd let silly Arlie Reynolds try to kiss me.

  posted at 11:04 PM  

Wednesday, September 05, 2007
A Long Road Home
In my last post I was waiting until Our Lord took care of some important things, or headed me in the right direction to deal with some of them, before telling you more about it all.

Last winter I returned to this fine city, and rested awhile, then found another nursing job I soon realized was a huge mistake. Nurses hired on, then left so quickly, we almost could have used a revolving exit door. It reminded me of little four legged critters working their hearts out in tiny cages, where no matter how hard they pedaled, they never got anywhere. The work load was unbelievable. I stayed with it four and a half months, but when I couldn't stand it any more, one day I got in my car, and began driving to other area nursing homes.

Before I sat down here tonight, I already knew what I'm eager to tell you, and somewhere in all of that a quote by T.S. Eliot keeps surfacing in my head. I haven't read his "Four Quartets", but that is where you'll find it.

In some years I've heard it many times: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time."

For a reason I didn't then understand, I felt pulled to go to a certain nursing home, instead of others, so I did. The old parking lot was just like before, but provided ample spots. Heading toward the entrance I realized it was now in a different place. After all, it was years ago that I worked there as a nurse's aide.

Mr. Eliot was right. It was like revisiting myself. But the younger me looked so different, in my all white uniforms, and those ugly white stockings, back when bedpans were heavy metal, and thermometers still glass. The most important thing I wore, more treasured than jewelry, was my brand new stethoscope. I admit it felt special, hanging from my shoulders. I will never forget walking through the doors there with license in hand, so proud of finishing training, and passing State Board. But any ideas of my work being special quickly disappeared, when they assigned me to shifts on the locked psychiatric unit.

Work wasn't all I did back then. Several romances came into my life, and most of them, like time, also left. In all of it I'm sure I made many mistakes, and a few regrets. But for a very long time, nursing dominated everything else I did.

But back to the future, or present here. The current Director of Nursing interviewed me, and offered me a job. A few days from now, that is what I'll be doing. But not until I work my last shift at the old place. I have no doubt tomorrow will be one of the best days I've been there.

Something about getting the work situation straightened out and the going back in time, gave me what I needed to deal with something else. When I got back from getting the job I went right to the phone,and called a mortgage broker, who helped me find a very good realtor. In the past two weeks I've looked at more than a dozen places, and made an offer on one. Yesterday the first phone call let me know it's approved. Some of my children live not far away, and it's about twelve blocks from the house to the new job.

It really is true. We have to go back to what and where we were, to see our ourselves, not only for the very first time, but to understand how to live the rest.

  posted at 10:11 AM  

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Name: Judith

Location: Colorado

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