Just Another Day in Paradise


There was an activity I wanted to go to at 10:00 a.m. yesterday, which meant that the aides were supposed to come at 9:00 a.m. for clean-up. Clean-up, in the language of James Square, means emptying catheter, face washed, hair brushed, teeth brushed, upper body washed, peri-care, and getting dressed. Now that’s not too difficult, is it? I do half of it myself, with aides going back and forth between the bathroom (water source) and the bed I’m in.

On days when I have morning activities, then the aides are supposed to come at 9:00 a.m. Yesterday was such a morning, and I know the staff knew because when the nurse, Anthony, came in to do a finger stick before breakfast, he said that it was a 9:00-o’clock-aide morning, which I confirmed.

Of course, all this was set up before the food service changed our breakfast time from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 o’clock.

Who waits breakfast until 9:00 a.m.?

I often wake up feeling nauseated and getting some food into my stomach helps settle it. I wake around 6:30 a.m. and cannot get breakfast until 9:00 a.m. F&^k this! Shift changes at 7:00 a.m. and is only supposed to take 15 minutes. No aides appear in the hallway between 7:00 and 7:45. No bells are answered during that time. Whether you need pain medicine, an urgent trip to the toilet, or are having a heart attack, you will not receive any attention between 7:00 and 7:45. A few weeks ago, three men died in one week. What I’d like to know is whether their call bells were on when they were found dead?

So now I keep peanut butter, jelly, crackers, cereal and a banana in my nightstand drawer so I can feed myself before 9:00. That’s what you have to do at James Square.

There is someone they call The Little Man. He is from Cambodia, lives in the University section with his family, and mops floors at James Square. My room has three windows facing south. The only way of controlling the heat is by adjusting the venetian blinds and opening and closing the windows. The Little Man looks in around 7:30, sees the sun beating down on me, and offers to lower the blinds. I happily accept his offer, then press my call bell for a bowl and milk for my cereal; they come after a long wait.

At 9:00, I again press my call bell for the aides to get me cleaned up. They do not come. When the nurse is in my hallway passing meds, I call out to him. He says “oh, no aides” in a manner that suggests he’s going to do something about it. No aides come. I call the nursing station and ask where the nurse manager, Kate is. The clerk, Darlene, says “She’s right here” and puts me on hold. I wait five or ten minutes before hanging up. The social worker, Tony, comes down the hall. I call to him, tell him the problem, and he heads off to do something about it. No aides come. I call the NYS Nursing Home hotline. They say they will add the complaint to my open file. I call the director of nursing, get her voice mail and leave a message. It is now 9:50—too late to get cleaned up and go to my activity.

At 10:10 nurse Heidi comes in with her eyes sparkling. She turns off the call bell and tells me that she has succeeded in getting me an appointment to go out to AMP Urology to have my catheter changed on November 19. Heidi is a new nurse—new to James Square, but not new to nursing. She has spent a week trying to make arrangements to get my catheter changed. She is on rotation for training and is destined to end up working the night shift. She is not the kind of person who will tolerate aides sleeping or otherwise malingering on her shift.

I am tormented about how to respond. On the one hand, I am pleased that she has succeeded in getting the appointment and I want to express my appreciation and encouragement. On the other hand, catheters should be changed every four to six weeks in order to prevent infection. James Square changed my catheter on September 19. The nurse mauled me painfully; the aide dumped a container of cold water on my crotch. AMP Urology never, ever, provides such incompetent care. But why should I care how long I have to wait? So I get an infection and it can’t be treated because of the damage to my immune system and it spreads throughout my system and I die. Why, now, should I care?

Because for decades I have tried to take good care of my body so it will be healthy and I can live an active life. Living healthy is a hard habit to break, but why not? Let it go; let it go.

So I take a nap.

At 11:20 a tall young black woman, wearing a printed sweatshirt, comes into my room. I have no idea who she is, so I ask her. She gives me her first name and asks if I want to get cleaned up. I say yes, and add that I’ve been waiting for two and a half hours. She says she got here at 10:00 and has been going down the list and now it’s my turn: do I want to get cleaned up? I reply, “I already said yes.” She says something under her breath, walks out of the room and never returns.

I give up and retreat into silence. Every time I open my mouth, somebody gets mad at me. I don’t know what to say, so I will say nothing.

The traveling OT lady comes in and hasn’t done what she said she would do. I just sit there and look at her. In three minutes, she leaves and says she’s not coming back. She’s got an elderly bed-ridden patient and only can spare three minutes, no care or compassion included.

I sleep again and when I wake my lunch tray is out of reach on the far side of the room. Remembering that my call bell went unanswered for 1:10 in the morning, I don’t even bother to press it. I don’t care whether I live or die.

At 4:00 p.m., evening nurse Melissa comes in to do a finger stick, sees my overflowing catheter bag and gasps. Nobody emptied the bag during the 8-hour day shift. This is the second time that I have been completely ignored and received no care from the day shift.

It just makes you want to give up and die.
Just Another Day in Paradise

There was an activity I wanted to go to at 10:00 a.m. yesterday, which meant that the aides were supposed to come at 9:00 a.m. for clean-up. Clean-up, in the language of James Square, means emptying catheter, face washed, hair brushed, teeth brushed, upper body washed, peri-care, and getting dressed. Now that’s not too difficult, is it? I do half of it myself, with aides going back and forth between the bathroom (water source) and the bed I’m in.

On days when I have morning activities, then the aides are supposed to come at 9:00 a.m. Yesterday was such a morning, and I know the staff knew because when the nurse, Anthony, came in to do a finger stick before breakfast, he said that it was a 9:00-o’clock-aide morning, which I confirmed.

Of course, all this was set up before the food service changed our breakfast time from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 o’clock.

Who waits breakfast until 9:00 a.m.?

I often wake up feeling nauseated and getting some food into my stomach helps settle it. I wake around 6:30 a.m. and cannot get breakfast until 9:00 a.m. F&^k this! Shift changes at 7:00 a.m. and is only supposed to take 15 minutes. No aides appear in the hallway between 7:00 and 7:45. No bells are answered during that time. Whether you need pain medicine, an urgent trip to the toilet, or are having a heart attack, you will not receive any attention between 7:00 and 7:45. A few weeks ago, three men died in one week. What I’d like to know is whether their call bells were on when they were found dead?

So now I keep peanut butter, jelly, crackers, cereal and a banana in my nightstand drawer so I can feed myself before 9:00. That’s what you have to do at James Square.

There is someone they call The Little Man. He is from Cambodia, lives in the University section with his family, and mops floors at James Square. My room has three windows facing south. The only way of controlling the heat is by adjusting the venetian blinds and opening and closing the windows. The Little Man looks in around 7:30, sees the sun beating down on me, and offers to lower the blinds. I happily accept his offer, then press my call bell for a bowl and milk for my cereal; they come after a long wait.

At 9:00, I again press my call bell for the aides to get me cleaned up. They do not come. When the nurse is in my hallway passing meds, I call out to him. He says “oh, no aides” in a manner that suggests he’s going to do something about it. No aides come. I call the nursing station and ask where the nurse manager, Kate is. The clerk, Darlene, says “She’s right here” and puts me on hold. I wait five or ten minutes before hanging up. The social worker, Tony, comes down the hall. I call to him, tell him the problem, and he heads off to do something about it. No aides come. I call the NYS Nursing Home hotline. They say they will add the complaint to my open file. I call the director of nursing, get her voice mail and leave a message. It is now 9:50—too late to get cleaned up and go to my activity.

At 10:10 nurse Heidi comes in with her eyes sparkling. She turns off the call bell and tells me that she has succeeded in getting me an appointment to go out to AMP Urology to have my catheter changed on November 19. Heidi is a new nurse—new to James Square, but not new to nursing. She has spent a week trying to make arrangements to get my catheter changed. She is on rotation for training and is destined to end up working the night shift. She is not the kind of person who will tolerate aides sleeping or otherwise malingering on her shift.

I am tormented about how to respond. On the one hand, I am pleased that she has succeeded in getting the appointment and I want to express my appreciation and encouragement. On the other hand, catheters should be changed every four to six weeks in order to prevent infection. James Square changed my catheter on September 19. The nurse mauled me painfully; the aide dumped a container of cold water on my crotch. AMP Urology never, ever, provides such incompetent care. But why should I care how long I have to wait? So I get an infection and it can’t be treated because of the damage to my immune system and it spreads throughout my system and I die. Why, now, should I care?

Because for decades I have tried to take good care of my body so it will be healthy and I can live an active life. Living healthy is a hard habit to break, but why not? Let it go; let it go.

So I take a nap.

At 11:20 a tall young black woman, wearing a printed sweatshirt, comes into my room. I have no idea who she is, so I ask her. She gives me her first name and asks if I want to get cleaned up. I say yes, and add that I’ve been waiting for two and a half hours. She says she got here at 10:00 and has been going down the list and now it’s my turn: do I want to get cleaned up? I reply, “I already said yes.” She says something under her breath, walks out of the room and never returns.

I give up and retreat into silence. Every time I open my mouth, somebody gets mad at me. I don’t know what to say, so I will say nothing.

The traveling OT lady comes in and hasn’t done what she said she would do. I just sit there and look at her. In three minutes, she leaves and says she’s not coming back. She’s got an elderly bed-ridden patient and only can spare three minutes, no care or compassion included.

I sleep again and when I wake my lunch tray is out of reach on the far side of the room. Remembering that my call bell went unanswered for 1:10 in the morning, I don’t even bother to press it. I don’t care whether I live or die.

At 4:00 p.m., evening nurse Melissa comes in to do a finger stick, sees my overflowing catheter bag and gasps. Nobody emptied the bag during the 8-hour day shift. This is the second time that I have been completely ignored and received no care from the day shift.

It just makes you want to give up and die.
Just Another Day in Paradise

There was an activity I wanted to go to at 10:00 a.m. yesterday, which meant that the aides were supposed to come at 9:00 a.m. for clean-up. Clean-up, in the language of James Square, means emptying catheter, face washed, hair brushed, teeth brushed, upper body washed, peri-care, and getting dressed. Now that’s not too difficult, is it? I do half of it myself, with aides going back and forth between the bathroom (water source) and the bed I’m in.

On days when I have morning activities, then the aides are supposed to come at 9:00 a.m. Yesterday was such a morning, and I know the staff knew because when the nurse, Anthony, came in to do a finger stick before breakfast, he said that it was a 9:00-o’clock-aide morning, which I confirmed.

Of course, all this was set up before the food service changed our breakfast time from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 o’clock.

Who waits breakfast until 9:00 a.m.?

I often wake up feeling nauseated and getting some food into my stomach helps settle it. I wake around 6:30 a.m. and cannot get breakfast until 9:00 a.m. F&^k this! Shift changes at 7:00 a.m. and is only supposed to take 15 minutes. No aides appear in the hallway between 7:00 and 7:45. No bells are answered during that time. Whether you need pain medicine, an urgent trip to the toilet, or are having a heart attack, you will not receive any attention between 7:00 and 7:45. A few weeks ago, three men died in one week. What I’d like to know is whether their call bells were on when they were found dead?

So now I keep peanut butter, jelly, crackers, cereal and a banana in my nightstand drawer so I can feed myself before 9:00. That’s what you have to do at James Square.

There is someone they call The Little Man. He is from Cambodia, lives in the University section with his family, and mops floors at James Square. My room has three windows facing south. The only way of controlling the heat is by adjusting the venetian blinds and opening and closing the windows. The Little Man looks in around 7:30, sees the sun beating down on me, and offers to lower the blinds. I happily accept his offer, then press my call bell for a bowl and milk for my cereal; they come after a long wait.

At 9:00, I again press my call bell for the aides to get me cleaned up. They do not come. When the nurse is in my hallway passing meds, I call out to him. He says “oh, no aides” in a manner that suggests he’s going to do something about it. No aides come. I call the nursing station and ask where the nurse manager, Kate is. The clerk, Darlene, says “She’s right here” and puts me on hold. I wait five or ten minutes before hanging up. The social worker, Tony, comes down the hall. I call to him, tell him the problem, and he heads off to do something about it. No aides come. I call the NYS Nursing Home hotline. They say they will add the complaint to my open file. I call the director of nursing, get her voice mail and leave a message. It is now 9:50—too late to get cleaned up and go to my activity.

At 10:10 nurse Heidi comes in with her eyes sparkling. She turns off the call bell and tells me that she has succeeded in getting me an appointment to go out to AMP Urology to have my catheter changed on November 19. Heidi is a new nurse—new to James Square, but not new to nursing. She has spent a week trying to make arrangements to get my catheter changed. She is on rotation for training and is destined to end up working the night shift. She is not the kind of person who will tolerate aides sleeping or otherwise malingering on her shift.

I am tormented about how to respond. On the one hand, I am pleased that she has succeeded in getting the appointment and I want to express my appreciation and encouragement. On the other hand, catheters should be changed every four to six weeks in order to prevent infection. James Square changed my catheter on September 19. The nurse mauled me painfully; the aide dumped a container of cold water on my crotch. AMP Urology never, ever, provides such incompetent care. But why should I care how long I have to wait? So I get an infection and it can’t be treated because of the damage to my immune system and it spreads throughout my system and I die. Why, now, should I care?

Because for decades I have tried to take good care of my body so it will be healthy and I can live an active life. Living healthy is a hard habit to break, but why not? Let it go; let it go.

So I take a nap.

At 11:20 a tall young black woman, wearing a printed sweatshirt, comes into my room. I have no idea who she is, so I ask her. She gives me her first name and asks if I want to get cleaned up. I say yes, and add that I’ve been waiting for two and a half hours. She says she got here at 10:00 and has been going down the list and now it’s my turn: do I want to get cleaned up? I reply, “I already said yes.” She says something under her breath, walks out of the room and never returns.

I give up and retreat into silence. Every time I open my mouth, somebody gets mad at me. I don’t know what to say, so I will say nothing.

The traveling OT lady comes in and hasn’t done what she said she would do. I just sit there and look at her. In three minutes, she leaves and says she’s not coming back. She’s got an elderly bed-ridden patient and only can spare three minutes, no care or compassion included.

I sleep again and when I wake my lunch tray is out of reach on the far side of the room. Remembering that my call bell went unanswered for 1:10 in the morning, I don’t even bother to press it. I don’t care whether I live or die.

At 4:00 p.m., evening nurse Melissa comes in to do a finger stick, sees my overflowing catheter bag and gasps. Nobody emptied the bag during the 8-hour day shift. This is the second time that I have been completely ignored and received no care from the day shift.

It just makes you want to give up and die.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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