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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.




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