Are You Done - Yet?

 The Thin Edge of Dignity by Dick Weinman


“Are you done,” the caregiver asked.  There I was.  A disabled, eighty year old sitting on the toilet in the Assisted Living Facility I call home.

Her words whispered a gentle question,  but  her voice told me she was annoyed and impatient.  “AreN’T you done YET,” shouted in my mind.

How could I go under such scrutiny.  She stood over me, watching,  one hand wielding a toilet wipe to clean me; the other,  playing a C Major scale on the wooden door frame.   Body language give away!

Why fight it?  “OK, I’m done,” I sighed.


No.  I wasn’t.   But, what the hell . . .

“It’s the law,” she stuttered, trying to explain her impatience.  I must have made her feel  guilty. “I’m sorry.  There are so many, she mumbled.”  I assumed she referred to how many residents there were on her list to get up and get.  What she meant - and most caregivers assent to - was that there are few of them to care for the many residents who need care.

She – again, it’s not just her – is groused at by residents, who complain about having towait long stretches of time.  Resident impatience causes caregivers stress, fatigue, and unhappiness – burn-out . Realize: caregivers are the front line troops in ALF wars,  not the generals on horseback on the ridge.

Even with the meager pay for stressful and dirty work  - how would you like to wipe asses and clean up projectile diarrhea? - the predominant reason for caregiver discontent, is short staffing: fellow employees who don’t show up for work, and administration not providing  back-up replacement.  To those caregivers stuck with fewer than expected staff, the excuses of the no-shows are often flimsy and questionable.  In many instances – even when the shift is shorthand, those who are sick themselves, workers show up wearing surgical masks to prevent spreading a cold.  It’s no wonder they question the work ethic of their colleagues.

In meeting after meeting, caregivers are told not to hurry residents.  But when there’s a “no show,” those who are at work have to do her job, pick up an extra load.  How would one not avoid a hurried pace?

When my caregiver sputtered her explanation for rushing me, I knew that she didn’t  mean the law, law.  But, since she was a foreign national, uncertain with the language, I sensed she meant “rule”:  the instructions given to the caregiver staff in orientations, staff meetings, or one-on-one discussions of how to relate to ALF residents.   Follow the “laws” of the institution.

Get all the residents on your list to the dining room.  By 8:00( breakfast). Noon (lunch.) 5:00 (dinner.)

In the morning: Wake them. Dress them. Toilet them. Complete other hygienic and appearance needs.  Then, get to the next person.  It’s Move. Move. Move.

If a resident is constipated – tough. (a pun?)

That’s why I’m never done.




About AARP States
Contact Information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.