Dramatic title, right? Well. I'm serious. But it's all part of the job. People in nursing homes eventually die on you.
Her name was Betty Lou. She was bed ridden the moment I started. I never knew her active, but they had pictures of her enjoying life and having fun with the other residents. Today, I heard stories about how she used to be. She had dementia pretty bad, and liked to clap her hands and say, "HEY! HEEEY!" She loved cranberry juice, but couldn't recall the name of it, so she would say, "Can I have red stuff?" or "Give me something red!" She was combative if you tried to get her up early, or give her a shower apparently. She would scream and fight if you tried to bathe her, and my co-worker, Joy, says she actually used to beg other people to do the task for her. The only combative behavior I ever witnessed was when my co-worker Ermelinda tried to give Betty Lou water via a small sponge on a stick because she was too weak to suck through a straw. Ermelinda rubbed the sponge roughly against Betty's lips, and all of a sudden she smacked Ermelinda's hand away (LOL!!!). That was Thursday night.
Friday night, I worked 10 o'clock to 6 am. The moment I started I was swamped with calls because apparently the residents had had wine with their dinner for some kind of party. Then they were given their bed time medicine, so not only were they drunk, they were high! The people who never call were calling, and the people who always call were calling more than usual. I checked on Betty Lou around 11 o'clock. When I came into the room, I could hear that she was breathing strangely. I came in and knelt beside her. She was breathing rapidly and had a thousand yard stare. "Betty Lou? ... Betty, can you hear me?" She didn't even try to look at me. I have no idea if she even heard me. "Are you okay Betty? Are you thirsty?" No response. I got the little sponge on a stick and got it wet, squeezing a few droplets into her mouth. I held her hand for a little while, and I had a pretty good feeling that she was going to pass tonight. But I couldn't stay with her... people were calling for me, and I had a ton of chores to get done.
After dealing with the chaos, and only managing to finish garbage detail, and sweeping the kitchen, I look at the time and go, "Oh god! I need to check Betty Lou!" Sara, the Med Tech, jokingly said, "Hurry, before someone else calls!" I took the elevator, putting my gloves on before entering the room. The moment I opened the door, I got scared... because I could hear the sound of rain hitting the window and I had no clue what it was at first (haha, honestly). I stood and listened, and couldn't hear Betty Lou at all. I flipped on the light in her living room and came in, standing in the doorway of her bedroom, listening for her breathing and heard none. Shaking, I flipped on the light and watched her chest intently for maybe an entire minute. I finally walked over, "Betty Lou?" I knelt down and looked into her still face, "Betty?" She wasn't blinking, moving, breathing... I swallowed hard, and reached for her wrist to look for a pulse. None. And she was cold >.< I got up and left her room, coming around the corner I ran into Ermelinda (who had JUST clocked in) and told her what I'd found. We get Sara, and Ermelinda takes off to take care of the other residents who were still calling, while Sara came with me to see for herself. She yelled Betty's name in her face, felt for a pulse, put her hand on her chest, and then looked at me and said, "I'm going to have a lot of paperwork tonight." She then told me, "I hate to do this to you, but... I need you to take care of her while I make arrangements."
That's my job. I already knew that, and I was prepared to do it. I was shaky, but ready. I went to work, pulling away all the pillows she had supporting her body in random places to lie her flat with a drainage pad under her head. I removed the hospital booties from her feet, changed her brief (diaper, if you want the undignified term), and then cleaned her face and legs. I shut her eyes, but couldn't shut her mouth. I kept feeling the need to apologize to her... and finally, I just started singing until I couldn't think of what else to do, and sat down to call my mom for a few minutes, just to settle my nerves, until Sara walked in to see how I was doing. The only thing I'd forgotten was to brush her hair, so I had done pretty well for my first time.
I'm okay. Several of my co-workers have come to me asking how I'm doing, since it was my first time encountering a death. I was mentally prepared for her to die from the moment I started over a month ago. The ONE thing that keeps bothering me is this; she died alone in a dark room... no family to watch over her. None of us were free to stay with her... she left this world completely alone