At the age of 18, I graduated high school months earlier than my class, so I had free time to work and do other things with my life I had been severely ready to enjoy. One of the things I had never tried, led me to work in an elderly care facility, unfortunately as a laundry attendant. My shifts consisted of 4 AM -12 PM and/ or 11 AM - 6 PM, five days a week, and in that time I learned a lot about what growing old is all about.
I had first hand experience seeing old people being mistreated by the staff, not caring for them when they make a mess, wrapping their dirty diapers in the elderly's clothes and sending them to me, the list goes on. But it was the patients there that really were the most interesting part.
For the sake of the story and lack of recall, I am going to tell you about a women I am going to call Mrs. Norris. Now this women had an illness of the mind, I didn't know which one, I just knew it made her forget a lot about her surroundings, she always forgot who she was talking to and mistook me for her sister.
Now overall, Mrs. Norris was a very nice woman, I checked on her and her laundry situation in her room every day. She was a portly white woman, with short, thinning gray hair and an elongated nose. She didn't wear glasses willingly but she was very near-sighted so I always had to come close to her for her to see me, but she always greeted me with the same genuine smile and hugged me tightly like she hadn't seen me in years.
Sometimes, her reaction made me wonder when the last time she saw her sister was, I assumed it had been quite some time because she always attempted to talk about old times with me, and I played along because she was so happy, I didn't have the heart to disappoint her.
One day while I was doing my laundry rounds on the upstairs of this facility, Mrs. Norris rolled up to me in her black leather wheel chair. She was wrapped up in a light pink blanket, strapped into her wheel chair because she kept trying to get out of it.
She didn't remember she couldn't walk on her own. Mrs. Norris called to me and I ran over happily greeting her when she said to me, "We're gonna f**k them up today right Kathy?" My jaw dropped.
Now normally I always played along but when she said that my mind went blank.
She then said, "I'll distract them, you pull it." What she was talking about to this day I still don't know, but in that moment what could I have said to her that wouldn't freak me or the nurses around out?
So I did what I had always done with the mentally ill patients, I hugged her and played along just saying sure and laughing along with her. Then I quickly made my escape into the nearby elevator to go back down to the laundry room, my face burning from a mixture of laughter and embarrassment.
Because she had asked me all of that in front of her room nurse. Mrs. Norris didn't even realize that her nurse was right beside me, but the nurse and I awkwardly laughed off what sounded to be her escape plot out of the home her family had put her in.
Looking back on it now, I am very glad I had the experience of working in an old folks' home. It taught me a lot about what the actual life is like for those elderly and what the nurses actually do when the families aren't there watching them.
Some of the time, things are great there and everyone is treated nicely and with a lot of respect, I won't name the place so I can't get sued for my side of the story, but other times I had to be the one to take good care of those patients because I didn't know who else would.
My advice is to really research the options for relocating your elderly family members and always make sure what you are doing is the right thing for them, listen to them if they don't like where they are because you never know till you either work in one or live there what it's like.