Friday, May 30, 2008

A Week in the Life

I can't believe it has been an entire week since I could sit down and log in. I guess this week has just been a more typical illustration of what it is like to work in an assisted living....chaotic! Suffice it to say I've been surviving on chocolate.

Lots of things went down this week, but perhaps the most interesting is the Missing Key Epidemic. This is pretty amazing, really. Especially for a tiny town in the safehaven belt of the Midwest where people don't lock their doors and couldn't even if they wanted to because no one knows if there is even a key. So this story starts at the beginning of the week with Pearl reporting her keys as missing. (Sidebar: It is imperative to understand that keys go missing at Rock Ridge at least weekly. And every time a set goes missing, they get found. In a sweater pocket, hanging in the mailbox, at the bottom of a purse, in the microwave.*)

So Pearl's keys are missing. I haphazardly suggest they will turn up, as missing keys always do. Wrong. Move. Pearl leans over my desk with a red face and bulging eyes and says "they aren't misplaced, they've been stolen!" I calmly try and suggest we go to her apartment and look for them. She raises her voice several more decibals than I even thought possible for an 80-something person with dementia and screeches, "You won't find them, I TOLD you they've been STOLEN!" She proceeds to tell me that she sleeps with her keys on her wrist and that she woke up just in time last night to feel someone taking them off and see them running out of her apartment. (Sidebar: We lock all the doors every night. Houdini himself would have trouble getting into this building after 7pm. Yes, I wanted to tell Pearl this. Yes, I restrained myself and decided to write it instead.)

Fast forward to today. Gladys just paid me a visit at which she told me this elaborate story about her friend (who is dead, but Gladys can't remember that she's dead) coming to Rock Ridge last night and sneaking into her bedroom and stealing her keys from the string around her neck. Hmmm. What do you think? Coincidence?

*It's true.

Friday, May 23, 2008

And in this corner...

I swear I don't have any favorites. Really. I don't. I love ALL our residents. There are, however, those few who seem to touch my heart at a little deeper level than others. Gladys is one of them.

Gladys has early stage Alzheimer's. Her short term memory is shot, but her beautiful and loving personality has remained in tact. She will tell me ten times within one hour that she likes my dress, but always with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. She loves people.

She also loves to put things in her purse. Butter pats. Crackers. Empty make-up containers. A million kleenex. You name it, it could be in her purse. It is packed full of, well, everything but the kitchen sink.

A while back, Gladys forgot her purse after Exercise Class. A couple of the ladies (read: old hens) saw the purse and seized their opportunity. Operating under the ruse of returning the purse to Gladys at her apartment, they made a quick side-trip to one of their own apartments.

As I rounded the corner, I could sense the mischief. Just picture this! Two ladies, both in their late eighties. Flushed pink cheeks, whispering, and giggling like a couple of sixth-grade girls who just called the local tavern asking to have Hugh Jass paged. "What are you two up to," I ask. More laughter. I think one of them might actually have a stroke or something. They say they are just returning Gladys' purse. More laughing. "Why are you laughing so much?" I ask. Finally, the less mischeivous of the two spills the beans.

They had taken the purse and put it on the bathroom scale. Total weight: 8 pounds.

Gladys is 91 years old, and probably weighs about the same as her age. I am most impressed with her athleticism. Seriously, she takes that purse EVERYWHERE. It's like doing 8-pound hand weights all day long!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Problem Solving 101

Have I mentioned this? I seriously love my job. Love. It. For so many reasons, but here is the Reason O' the Day: Assistant and I were having a really difficult time trying to find a solution to a problem. We were beyond frustrated and getting nowhere. So what did we do about it? We went to lunch. We met at the trail. And ran 6.8 miles.

I feel freaking great. And we figured out the problem (it is a fact that you think better when you are deep breathing...I think I'll have to write another post on this sometime). What could be better than a job with fifty grandparents to love AND the flexibility to go for a run in the middle of the day AND have an Assistant who runs, too!?

Oh, and about that Assistant. For my birthday she signed us up for a marathon. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving...I guess we'll be doing a lot of problem solving on the trail this summer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

She's Got a Ticket to Ride

I'm sitting in my office acting busy and hear my assistant talking with a resident outside the door.

Assistant: "Hi Marvin! How are you today?"

Marvin: "Well, that's what I was just sitting here thinking about."

Assistant: "And what have you decided?"

Marvin: "That I'd sure like to know where I could find some pussy."

I choke on my coffee. Assistant exclaims "Marvin, that is inappropriate!" Marvin says something else even worse. Assistant tells him to stop talking like that, but he keeps at it. He tells Assistant many things best left unsaid by someone as old and stinky as Marvin. He even offered her money.

So Assistant says "Bible Study starts in ten minutes. I think maybe it would be a good idea for you to go today." I have to admit, I admire her quick thinking about the Bible Study. However, she should have thought her next move through a little better.

Marvin: "I would go, but I don't want to walk that far."

Assistant: (planning to take him in the wheelchair) "That's no problem. I'll just give you a ride."

Just use your imagination. I didn't just choke on the coffee this time, it actually came out my nose.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yes, dental care now can save you from embarrassment later!

Tootie was this itty-bitty tiny little firecracker of a lady. What she lacked in size she totally made up for in class. She taught me to save the good stuff, which for Tootie was Madeira, for after 4:00 p.m. If you wanted a little taste earlier in the afternoon, that was OK, but make it something cheaper.

Tootie is also the person that made me look the most forward to getting old. Apparently, when you are 89 years old you can say whatever the hell you want. At lunch one day a new resident, Mrs. Bennigan, sat with Tootie. She took one look at Mrs. Bennigan and said, "If you can afford to live at Rock Ridge then I'd think you could afford to get a tooth."

And that pretty much sums up the conversation that day.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Freddie My Love

I walk in the door this morning, and Freddie (age 96) is on his way out. He has his cane and is wearing his hat (I wish I knew what kind of hat it is called, but the picture will have to provide the visual. Trust me, he's way too cute in it, whatever it's name is.) Anyway, he really is about the most adorable 96-year-old thing you've ever seen.

Me: "Hi Handsome! Whatcha doing?"
Freddie: "Just waiting for you to hug me."

I readily comply and give him a big squeeze. To which Freddie says: "Here I am living with all this beauty, and I'm too damned old to do anything about it!"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Welcome to the ALFer Life!

ALF is an acronym for Assisted Living Facility, and that is the kind of place in which I work. I absolutely love, love, love my job! Not only do I get to have about 50 grandparents, but also lots of hugs, love, and the feeling like I actually make a difference. All pretty good stuff! My job also requires a really good sense of humor. Luckily, laughing is one my most favorite things to do. And here at Rock Ridge*...well, I get to do it. A LOT.

Every time I tell her about how my day went at work, my mom always says "you really should be writing this stuff down!" Of course, she tells me this between peals of laughter, and the "are you kidding me!?" questions. I never am. Kidding, that is.

I have to admit, the work stories are damn funny. Whoever said the quote about life being stranger than fiction must have worked in an assisted living. Because it is. And funnier, too.

So welcome to the place where I'm going to finally "write all this stuff down." I hope it makes you smile, belly laugh, or both. At the very least, I hope it will provide you with plenty of entries in the journal where you write about all the things you want to remember NEVER to do when you're old...lest someone write about it in a blog.

THE DISCLAIMER: Working with the elderly isn't always funny. Sometimes it is sad, frustrating, and just plain yucky. I simply choose to find the humor in the every day...and most of my residents do, too. I am not going to disparage anyone. I am not making fun of anyone. I am simply finding fun in the day to day, because like Jimmy says: if we couldn't laugh...we would all go insane!

*No, this isn't really the name of our senior living community.

This lady doesn't live at Rock Ridge*, but she would fit in great!