Do You Know Me?

She is wandering the halls, up one side and down the other, through each hallway on the unit. Her pace is average, pushing her walker in front of her as she goes. This is not abnormal, usually after every meal she takes a stroll before retiring to her recliner in her room. But this time something is different, behind those eyes I can see questions.

“Hello Miss D____, how are you?”

“Do you know me?”

“Yes, I’ve known you for a while now.”

Relief washes over her face.

“Who am I? What is my name?”

“You are Miss D____, you live here.”

“Where am I and why am I here? I’m so confused!”

This just breaks my heart, and it is a sign that her dementia may be advancing. I put my arm around her and guide her to her room. I show her the photos of people who love her, and she begins to recognize her environment. Sadly a day will come when these things mean nothing to her, the memories she has will be from long ago and she’ll be fearful and grow less cooperative, loosing more of her current or recent memories as they die off with her brain that is slowly dying in her head, leaving her trapped in a time and place long ago that doesn’t mesh with what her eyes see now. She’ll talk about going home, that her parents will worry about her, and she has things to do before bed because she has school in the morning. No amount of effort will help her understand she is in 2016 and not 1940 something. In fact to suggest it, or tell her she is 90+ and her parents have died long ago will only upset her more and cause a complete, emotional melt down. Instead we work and “live” with her right where she is at the moment. We comfort her with the tools in our ‘tool belts’ that we’ve been given, acknowledging and validating her fears and concerns, gently redirecting her by asking her to tell us about mom and dad, who are they, what are they like, and sometimes she goes down what she has of memory lane and things calm down. And every day we will do it all over again, as we are brand new to her each morning, and have to gain her trust all over again as strangers once more.

This is what keeps me doing my job. It breaks my heart for these souls, and I cannot imagine not being there to help them get bathed, dressed, hair fixed and some lipstick on or face shaved. The smiles when I say “wow, you look so beautiful today!”, and the hugs for giving them a few moments of joy.

The pay in this job totally sucks, at or just above minimum wage and topping out in most facilities well below where we should be. One doesn’t work this profession to get wealthy. It is a calling, a ministry, for some of us, our hearts and souls go into what we do. For others it is a paycheck because they can’t or won’t pursue something better. The kind of care shown the residents will tell any observer where the aide falls as far as working for the next smile or the next dollar. There are days when it is so hard to do this, being short staffed and working with those who are only there to get paid, lazy as the day is long and unable to grasp that these folks are people, lost inside damaged minds that are shrinking day by day, they NEED us to be loving, patient and kind. They need to be cared for from the heart, because this damn disease is robbing them of who they are, were and could still be. It steals their memories, their security, their livelihood and leaves them empty and frightened.

That is why I am here, standing between the present and their past, trying to make what they have left as wonderful as possible.

I’m There

I can finally stop studying and relish in the moment, I passed my state exams and I’m a Medication Aide-Certified in the state of Ohio. *does happy dance without tripping over anything and falling on my tush*  Lots of hard work in a month of class, studying like crazy while working 2 full time jobs, and…I’m there! Now to get on the new units when they open and begin working as a medication aide. This business of career path changes in one’s 50’s is just crazy, but at the same time I feel I’ve found my calling in life. The beauty of this is while I will do all the med passes, I will also back the aides afterward and be able to work closely with the residents, the part of this I love so much!

Now that I’m not busy studying my crochet hooks are back out and the yarns are ready to be crafted into something I can use, and items for my store. Yes, this makes me very happy, as I’ve come to find hooking is my therapy and since 8/22/16 I’ve been away from my therapist! The same day I found out I passed the exams I received a request for a custom order through the shop which was a nice way to get back to the nuclear chaos I refer to to as my normal life.

Quickly, before I go, a shameless plug for my daughter’s new blog. Like her mama she loves coffee, crochet, reading, and it seems writing! Check out Kids, Dogs And A Whole Lot Of Coffee and show her some love!


My Bum Is Purple

I have one very sore rump today, with a large, very dark purple bruise on one cheek of my buttocks. Yes, TMI, I know. When I was getting a resident out of their wheelchair to stand at the grab bar, a rather complicated maneuver in a tiny bathroom that isn’t big enough for the 2 of us and the wheelchair, I backed into the corner of the bathroom sink very hard. Oh goodness it is sore.

Currently I can write my name in the dust on my desk and dresser, my trash can in my bedroom under the vanity is over flowing and I’m in my jammies with bedhead of gold medal standard. After tomorrow I will be able to get a grip on all of that but for now, it is study until I drop. At 9:30am, EST, if you are one inclined to pray, I need it! My MA-C state exam is tomorrow and I need to pass it in order to pass medications, get a raise at both jobs and that is of great desire to me. I have found apps to use to study, and have a huge stack of index cards with hundreds of drugs (their info, what they treat, side effects etc) and 2 very large binders of information. Hopefully tomorrow I will pass the written and skills tests and not have to retake any part. That will be amazing. I still have to take the Kentucky test once I pass Ohio’s, but that I can live with, it will be known information.

20160906_165058I also have so many projects for my shop that need to be completed. Everything went into a holding pattern 6 or 7 weeks back when I started the classes for this certification, and I cannot wait for it to be done. I haven’t done any real marketing for the Etsy shop but please, feel free to stop in, look around, and purchase if you find something you like. We now donate 20% of all sales to Alzheimer’s because it is a cause near and dear to me and my sister. These are the people I care for most in my jobs, those who live within a mind that is shrinking every day, their brains are dying and literally have gaping holes in them as they degenerate. There is no cure, but with we can hope and help by donating. We’re coming out with coffee cup cozys this week that you can use to show your support of this cause, stay tuned!

I’m looking forward to having a life again. Coming home from the 8 hour shift job to spend the rest of the day studying just sucks. I don’t mind the going to bed by 8 or 8:30p (ideally it should be 7:30p) if I have that time from 2:30p on to do what I want/need, but right now all I do is study. UGH. And the 12.5 hour shifts, I come home, eat, sip on wine while getting in my jammies and into the bed.  I cannot live that way, I need some Marvi time!!!


So You’re Putting Mom/Dad In A Nursing Home: Do’s And Don’ts

I know from personal experience that making the decision to put a loved one in a long term care facility (ie: Nursing Home) is tough. So let me help you with a few things I’ve learned from experience as the aide taking care of the residents. Trust me, I’m a damn good one, and I know from caring for these residents a few things that will hopefully help you and mom or dad.

This is not the place for items of great value. Yes, mother’s beloved wedding band set is precious to her, but seriously consider a simple band. No, the staff isn’t interested in taking it or anything else she has, but if there is any chance it could come off her hand, it could be lost forever. That expensive vase, jewelry in the box, etc, just doesn’t have a good place here. See, some folks may be in early to late stages of dementia. They will wander and sometimes relocate items. They do not know understand what they are doing. We the staff refer to it as “going shopping”, because they truly are not trying to steal it, they see it, and have no ability to reason that it is not their item, heck in their confused mind they may think it is their’s. Oh we do make every effort to get shopped items back to the owners but think it through before you bring items of value into the facility.

When it comes to clothing, please please please put their name in it. Use a sharpie, have special tags sewn in to the items, but make sure you have every stitch of clothing labeled, including socks. Yes, even if you are going to do their laundry and bring it back. See, sometimes in the heat of the moment when cleaning up a ‘code brown’ (a major bowel movement explosion) that is all over your parent, the floor, their clothing could end up tied in a plastic bag and put in the facility laundry. Seriously you might be thankful if it does after the first time you get to rip into such a bag that we stick in mama’s hamper. We want to be sure the clothing gets back to the correct resident! This includes lap blankets, any bedding that is personal, etc. Countless times when doing rounds we find a blanket in the activity room that does not look familiar (or it was shopped from a room and restocked to another) and we don’t have a clue who it belongs too because it lacks a label/name.

Another point about clothing, please understand this is not the time in mama’s life for her to be dressed in the latest fashions, especially if form fitting. Find nice, attractive clothing and think about the fact that she needs assistance dressing. A size larger than needed makes it much easier for us to get her dressed in the morning, and change her clothes if there is a code brown or she gets food on herself. Elderly skin is onion skin thin and a skin tear can happen even when the utmost care is taken, and these are so painful and often don’t heal quickly. Remember too, daddy is declining, that is why you are placing them in our care, so think about the fact that he is going to get food stains on his clothing. We often have shirt savers (adult bibs/dining wear) but even though we try to keep them clean, things do get on clothing. Think comfortable, practical, and affordable. Also, think extra items. Remember, they do sometimes go through clothing like they are toddlers again and we need to have plenty to change them into. We want them clean and looking nice as much as you do.  Also, think warm! Elderly folks are always cold, they cannot regulate their body temperature anymore so believe it or not sweat shirts, sweaters, long sleeves etc, really are year round attire! Shop at end of season clearance sales for these items, because they will wear them all year round!

I’ve seen families get upset over the facility putting mom or dad in a hospital gown rather than their jammies. We check and change them during the night, every 2 to 3 hours. Those jammie sets are cute, but when we have to roll them back and forth extra times to get the pants off before we get to their brief (adult diaper), it is not fun for them at all. The less movement the less they wake up and the better their night of sleep will be. And elderly don’t have the flexibility they used too. Hospital gowns tie in back making it much easier to get on and off. If mama loves those flannel gowns, then maybe consider cutting them up the back and adding ties to them. After all, in her bed, recliner or chair, no one can see her back, but she is warm and it is far easier to get her in and out of her nightgown. Velcro is also a great trick!

Want to get something for them? SOCKS! If they still wear shoes, then consider what is comfy in the shoes, but if not, nice thick socks are the way to go! So few of my residents seem to have enough socks. Oh, and write their name or room number on the bottom of each sock with a sharpie! And for those who do walk, good non-slip footwear!

Those are just a few of the tips I can think of that would help your loved one and the staff to help make this a better experience!


I Was Pee’d On Today

14391024_1218524028215093_3034635554576758796_nBeing piddled on is one of the on the job hazards of a nurse aide. And while it has been known to get on my hand or arm despite gloves and all of those proper methods we are taught to change people, I wasn’t expecting to have someone actually pee on me.

When you take the classes to become an aide, you learn all of the ‘rules’, laws, and ‘proper procedures’ that the state requires us to follow. I’m telling you right now, I’d bet a paycheck that those making up these things have never worked a day in this job. See, there is what is taught, and then there is the real world. In all of the books, lessons, clinical hours, continuing education training, there is the gentle approach and guidance that the resident will magically follow and once you have assisted them with pulling down their pants and ‘brief’ (aka adult diaper or pull-up) they will sit down on the toilet. In the real world, you pull down their pants and before you can unhook the diaper they are pulling the pants back up. You pull them down, they pull them up, asking “why are you doing this?” and no amount of showing them the toilet and explaining that their undies are wet and they need to sit down is going to get through to them. They even say that they know what to do, then don’t do it.

I finally succeeded in getting the pants and the pull-up down, and while trying to convince the resident, who seems to have missed the magically plant yourself on the commode memo, he pees.  All. over. the. floor.  And the pull-up that is around his ankles, and it sprays and splashes on me, and it just keeps going. Because he was in socks, he suddenly realizes that his feet are now wet and about the same time the stream of urine stops he receives the memo and magically plants himself on the toilet. “My feet are all wet, I think someone pee’d on the floor in here.” Yep, bud, they sure did. I go get a fresh pair of socks, another pair of pants, and a wash cloth and towel so I can wash the urine off Mr. Peesalot and fix the situation. I also go get a mop and clean up the floor.

Shortly after that incident, while assisting with one of the residents who requires two of us to get up because she is heavy, cannot stand or walk, and some mornings is a pro-wrestler wannabe, I got the crap kicked, punched, scratched out of me and nearly bitten. They mention ‘combative’ in school, but there is nothing like the strength of a 90+ year old woman who is not at all interested in getting out of bed, ever, and has dementia.

By the end of the day every muscle is sore. I opted to take the highway home rather than wait on the ferry. Something told me that it would be a long wait and I needed to run into the grocery store, smelling of Ode To Potty, and grab a few things. Once home I took a nice, long shower, and now I’m sitting here on my bed with my laptop, wearing my jammies (have been since 3:30pm – don’t judge me). Wine is in the near future, before I turn in for the night to do it all again tomorrow at the other full time job.

If you are reading this and thinking about CNA / STNA as a job, don’t let it discourage you. Believe me we laugh a LOT through this job, and the days, because humor is the way we stay sane. And at the end of your shift you will feel very accomplished knowing that despite the drawbacks you are making a difference if even just to get someone into dry clothes. If you don’t, then maybe this isn’t where you belong.


Wine Musings

10528037_661869007231960_1756530536_nI have a sleep app on my cell phone. Punch in the alarm(s) you need to wake, tell it how much you need as an ideal night of slumber, it will tell you when to go to bed. Not as in figuring the time, but as a reminder that comes up and tells me I need to be in bed in 15 minutes if I want to achieve my sleep goal, which is 8.5 hours for me. I could go with much more, I need it. There are studies that prove you can, in fact, catch up on lost sleep. Right now I’m thinking about 5 months straight sleeping might catch me up!

Today was day 5 of 21 (I miscounted and thought it was 23) working days in a row. Yes, I am crazy but that isn’t news to some of my readers (you know who you are and I know you read my blog, there are no secrets). Currently I have 2 full time jobs because one is close to home and the other pays better. The one paying better doesn’t have over time, the one close to home does but I have no time to pick up that OT because I work all 7 days of the week. On day 22 I am off from both jobs, and after I watch 2 of the grandsnugglers I will be coming home to study my butt off so it isn’t really much of what one would refer to as a day off.

I have 20 days of studying before the big state exam, and I’m trying to do that on the days I work until 2pm. Come home, shower off (because yes I DO have a clue what is on me and the uniform and we don’t care to go there), hit the bedroom with the 2, 4 inch binders full of study material and the textbook I found online. I will pass this exam and be certified to pass medications. And my pay jumps $1 per hour at the job close to home, and $4 per hour at the other. I see myself getting out of debt Dave Ramsey style!

My phone tells me what time to get up each day, 4:20am for the job close to home, 4am for the other. It tells me how many steps I log per day (over 20K), reminds me if it is someone’s birthday, allows me to do everything my laptop does, and then some. I could even write blog posts if I could find time to actually sit down and do it on the phone.

Right now I’m sitting on my bed, sipping a glass of wine, waiting for that “hey, if you really want to be awake tomorrow it is time to go to bed” reminder.

One thing I really need to keep me sane right now is my faith. I’m really concerned about that of late. Oh, I believe with all of my heart, that Christ is my Savior. But I’ve lost my desire for the Word of God. I enjoy it, need it, but lack the discipline to set aside the time to be IN the Word daily. And because of my hectic schedule I’ve not made it to church in a number of weeks. While watching online is great, it is not a substitute for the hugs and sharing with in-person connections. I’m also becoming too much of a home body, hermiting in my shell and not really interested in the whole going out thing. Too much work. I even found a small group from church of other women in their 50s who are single/divorced and last night I was too exhausted to make it to the gathering, and even forgot it was Wednesday night at all. Outside of my Divas the most meaningful conversation I have had of late was with my stylist, it consisted of discussion of how short to cut the locks, which was very short, and the benefits of regrowth when it comes to a great looking style. Yep, that was a deep one right there. Something has got to give here. Thankfully at the end of October I’m going to Woman Camp with the women from church and that will help refresh the body, mind and soul.

The funny thing about it all? I’m happy! Last night I made the comment to my mom that I love my life, it is so good. I work with some badass women who get it done, live with some equally badass women who are very supportive and loving, have terrific kids and grandkids, and at the end of the day I know I am blessed beyond measure, and feel so accomplished. I know, this is all just one chapter and soon the page will flip and things will be different. I just need to hang in here…and get some sleep.

On that note, I think it is time for a bit more wine, put my air plants back (they are drying from having a bath), and then go find the Sandman.


My Status: Over Achiever

I think I have commitment issues, but not how you think because I’m not talking about relationships. I mean to life, as in work for example. My schedule has me working every day this month with the exception of 2. The best part of this is I signed up for all of those days. Call me crazy, I get it and own that one. But with bills to pay and Christmas not that far off, making the most of having 2 jobs seems like a good idea. When the alarm clock goes off each day I wonder about my sanity, what the heck was I thinking???

My allergies seem to be on over achiever mode as well. I will admit that I did not take my meds the past 2 days because I was busy and just plain forgot. This is making me miserable now and might lead to a sinus infection. Meanwhile I will likely keep the tissue company in business as the pollen count is 10.1 out of 12 today. ARGH!

Up to my eyeballs in drug names, classifications, multiple systems of the body and how they all interact with one another on levels I never cared to know, I thought it might be fun to sign up to participate in the walk to end Alzheimer’s because one day weeks from now I could have slept in, and we certainly don’t want to break the routine of up at 4am. Just what I need to be doing in the middle of studying for a state exam so I can pass medications at the facilities where I work.

Overly busy? Yes I am! Ah but hang on to your knickers, I’m not finished!

b1b2My shop is still managing to release new items! This is due both to my sister is able to crochet things, and the fact that it is therapy for me and keeping me somewhat sane. Rather than taking in 100 stray cats, or searching for places to bury bodies, I’m binging NCIS on Netflix in the evening while sipping wine and hooking things to sell.

Yes, I still sell Avon, though not as actively pursuing it as I have in the past. I’ve let my team go for now and just sell to friends, coworkers and family. It keeps me in makeup and skin care so it is a win for me. Not that I wear much makeup these days, when you are in menopause like a boss and doing very physical work it is absolutely pointless to bother putting on much more than mascara. Even then I often come home looking like a drunk raccoon from sweating it down my face, but I try!

3-plantsOn a sad note, I managed to kill Abraham, my one air plant. He has been replaced by 3 new ones that are yet to be named. Suggestions are welcome!

Okay, enough chit chat, this chick has to get her ACE inhibitors and BETA blockers memorized. Y’all have a marvelous day!


Still Here!

coffee cup

Francesco Marino /

Yes I am still here, just been up to my eyeballs in busy. Thank the Lord for whoever figured out that those lovely beans, crushed and bathed in hot water made the wonderful drink we call coffee!

I’m in classes to get certified to pass meds as an aide, making me a MA-C rather than just a STNA.  4 weeks of classes, hundreds of drugs I need to know, and body systems…I’m brain imploded.  On top of that 5 days a week, I’m working weekends, both days, at my new part time job in another facility, and trying to keep up with projects for my shop. My free time to write my blog and work on my novel is scarce but I’m trying to do it all because that is just what I do. Yes, I am crazy.

I have had more than a few “what was I thinking” moments since starting classes, this is a LOT to learn. Not just the drugs, but their classifications, side effects, lots of anatomy and physiology (though I do love that stuff), then trying to study and still have something that resembles a life outside of class and working.

The new job is at an assisted living facility, so physically it is less wear and tear on my body, but still lots of steps in between all of the apartments, and more residents assigned to me because of the lesser degree of hands on care needed.  It is also a bit more of a drive, 20-25 minutes vs. the 5-7 for my full time job. But it is all good, I’ve got this!  Already LOVE my new residents, this line of work is simply awesome.

More to come, just need to find more time, or learn how to use the app from my phone to write on my breaks!


Jammies, Coffee, Relaxing

Coffee cup with steam11:34am and yes, I am still in my jammies, sipping my coffee. Just a lazy kinda of day as I work for the next 4 days, at the part time job I’ve picked up, my full time job, and with any left over time, my shop business might get some attention.  I hope.  I am nearly finished with a really beautiful item and want to get it listed so I can move on to the next project.  :)

I had such a great week this past one, from staying with my grandson during the day a few days while his parents were in Las Vegas, to working on this project, and getting my second job, and crocheting, and then only having to work one day at the full time job because I burned some PTO days to watch the baby, it was SO relaxing. Then I went back to work and half way through the day my body was screaming in pain, I’d forgotten how physically exhausting my work can be. Mentally and emotionally is can be rough too, makes me wonder if after a day of listening to one resident yelling nearly constantly, and the other sobbing hysterically and yelling out, if maybe we don’t leave there with a temporary form of PTSD. When you work with residents, most of whom have dementia, it takes a toll on  you.  While it is a series of routines for us in caring for them, it is brand new every single day to them, the previous days are gone, sometimes even the previous few minutes.

Not all of those in my care suffer from dementia, some simply can no longer care for themselves. They cannot use the bathroom without assistance that includes wiping their bottoms, or maybe need to wear adult diapers, cannot shower but instead have to sit humbly naked in front of you while you wash their bodies, shave their face because they can no longer hold the razor safely, some cannot even pick up their utensils to feed themselves and rely on us to do that for them. Unable to walk or stand, they are at the mercy of their aides to get them into a sling and use a stand-up or Hoyer style lift to move them from the bed to their wheel chairs or Broda chairs. Dressing someone unable to help requires rolling them back and forth as you work first the diaper into place, then their slacks, then shirt. It is physically intensive, and time consuming. I hit the floor at 6am and on a good day, with a float getting up one person for me, I’ll have everyone up, dressed and the first meal of the day over at 10am. I have 9 in my direct care, and backup/assist others on my unit as needed. Plenty of days I’m bumping up against lunch time by the time I finish with the morning rounds, which includes making their beds.

Growing older is not easy or pretty, and in fact sucks if you ask me. Sure, it is only 4% or so of the elderly population living in long term care facilities, but there are plenty at home requiring assistance from family or paid care takers.

So, today I’m hanging out later than usual with my coffee and jammies, still wincing from pain at times, knowing the week ahead is going to be brutal. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’ve found my calling.