Sunday, March 19, 2017

Two Weeks and Holding

It is 4:20 am. The door handle wiggled a bit for the third or fourth time tonight. My wife keeps it locked now that it can be locked and unlocked with a key again.

A bowel of soup has been added to many meals to get us all back to our pre-flood weights. I topped out at five pounds overweight; down one yesterday.

Our one big family is now divided into assisted living west floor 1, 2, 3 and east floor 2. Memory care is now memory care 1 and 2. The food service is now the kitchen (floor 1) and dining (floor 3) plus secondary kitchens in memory care 1 and 2. All food must be delivered by elevator to the third floor lobby and served in the former theater or wheeled in warming carts to memory care.

It has been nearly three months since eggs could be ordered for breakfast in a dozen different ways. We now have a choice: a serving from a huge pan over two warmer burners of delicious scrambled eggs.

At first I ordered eggs, oatmeal, orange juice and milk; unless there was a special. Now, after a couple of weeks, I just walk in, sit down, read the morning paper (the Columbia Tribune is now a morning paper, seven days a week), fold up the sheet with Sudoku, and my “usual” arrives shortly after the food cart comes out of the elevator. Waffles are warmed small prefabricated things.

About half the number of places are available as in the main dining hall. The chairs with supporting wooden armrests disappeared over the last few days. Their heavier replacements have a curved bar that dives from the back to the seat providing little support. A lady behind me stumbled and fell back. Her hand searched for the armrest as she landed on the edge of the chair. This is not called a fall as she did not hit the floor.

Our fitness instructors constantly stress balance and fall prevention; how to stand up and sit down without needing to use any part of the chair; if you are able of course. I will not try to describe these lessons as it takes many people several sessions to get the hang of it all, correctly; and do it outside the classroom.

It occurs to me as I am writing this that every one should be required to take part in these lessons in the same manner as fire drills or building evacuation drills: Position, breathing, and execution within each person’s limits. I guess how long the training would be effective makes this problematic.

Last week a man stood up by my table and immediately fell on his bottom and over on the back of his head in two horrible thumps that were easily heard and recognized by the front desk two floors below. The attendant waited for the order to call 911 that brought an ambulance in about three to four minutes. He was back in the afternoon. While we were gone, a lady was not so lucky. She suffered a broken neck falling over backward.

“Well isn’t that something!!” A lady wanted water in her glass. The server was pouring water, table by table. We found that we were at the last table; that was next to the first table. “I want lots of ice.” But the same one layer of ice was delivered to all of our glasses. “I use the ice to cool my coffee, whenever it gets here.” She then took her spoon and “borrowed” the ice in my glass.

The contrast in frustration is evident between memory care and assisted living. The people in assisted living missed out on being on “vacation” in a motel a few days and being refugees in skill nursing for over two months to be followed by, “We are home again!!!!” Their wounded boat never left the dock. They stayed in port as noisy repairs were made over and around them.

The staffing has also changed. A number of new people have arrived. Work assignments are still being experimented with. I find little difference between the needs of many residents on either side of the “door”, except the habit of wandering. Most prefer the same caregivers, “I finally got that new girl to … properly.” What a new caregiver may see as a curious quirk may be a serious matter for the comfort and well being of the resident.

My wife does very well with the few caregivers with whom she has bonded. “I have some ice cream for you”, is now often used for her pills. If all else fails, they call me, if I am not in the room already, to use a number of ways we have found work for me as the pill deliverer. Calming medication has again been replaced by appropriate memory care.

Overtime was accepted during our two-month outing. It is now a problem getting back to normal hours. Just as memory care residents have special needs, so do caregivers who have family needs or a desire to not work beyond an agreed number of hours a week.

So, in summary, I now continue to eat breakfast in the third floor area with my former “early bunch” and the other two meals in memory care; who are a happier bunch. They are home in more properly designed quarters designed in part by the people working and living here. Thank you for taking advantage of the flood.

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