We are born, become children, teenagers, and adults. Some of us get married and have a family. We nurture our children and sacrifice for them. We grow old and wither like a flower losing its petals ultimately to return to the Earth. It is during the process of our final years we are most vulnerable.
I personally call nursing homes, "End of Life" facilities. This is usually the last stop for a person that a family can no longer care for emotionally or financially. Sometimes, it is for the safety of the elder who becomes a wanderer. Controversially, Congress has passed a law allowing microchips to be implanted in people that suffer from Alzheimer's or other disorders "such as" Autism which is sure to be part of the public concern.
This is a story about the deterioration of Robert. He was brought to the facility by his son who was concerned about his father's continual demise. Robert was in his mid-80s who was an average looking fellow with gray hair. When he entered the facility, I noticed he had on a blue, long-sleeve shirt that had blood stains on it, dark blue Dockers, and nice brown leather loafers. He looked a little confused as to what was going on.
My supervisor asked me to sit with Robert while they did the necessary paperwork for admission to the Alzheimer floor. His son had informed her that Robert was falling at home and had stopped reading (a favorite hobby), watching television, and often complained about headaches.
Being the talkative type, I struck up a conversation with him. He just looked out into space, but answered my questions. I asked him what he liked to read. He said he loved to read the daily newspaper, but couldn't anymore. I asked why. His answer was so basic, that I kind of chuckled. He said he "couldn't see the words." I handed him my reading glasses, and he put them on. I gave him a book to read. I asked him if he would see the words. He said yes. That explained a lot to me. It made so much sense. The lack of interest in reading and TV, loss of balance, headaches were all related to eye strain.
Even after learning of this, his son still wanted to have his dad move in. Sad. But what is sadder is what happened over the next few months.
Robert walked into the building under his own power. He was now being confined to a wheelchair. During activity group time, he would try to get up and walk, but he was told to sit down. He repeatedly tried to get out of his chair to walk. He supposedly became a danger to himself. Restraints were out of the question because they have become an ethical issue in nursing homes. Elderly patients may feel depressed, helpless, confused, agitated, or aggressive.
So how did they handle Robert being a danger to himself? He was put on sedatives.
One day, I came to work and walked by the lunch area. I noticed Robert in a chair with a tray put across it like a high chair. What was unusual was that he was trying to get out of the chair and was stuck. He was half standing in the chair but his knees were trapped up against the tray. I immediately rushed over to help him, and for the first time ever did not care what the other CNAs thought of me. I ripped into them. Here is a person in distress and they were sitting on their phones. I was livid. They looked at me and went back to their phones.
Over the next few months, Robert declined. Once a man with dignity and drive, he was now a drugged up, stoned, shell of a body. Robert gave up. He no longer participated in activities. He would just sit in his chair and his head would be slumped down to his chest. Not much longer after that he died.
Next: Being a Certified Nursing Assistant Part 7: Alzheimer's
READ MORE FROM MY CRANIUM BY DAVID HERMAN