I’ve lived beside Mrs. J for many years, as a child and as an adult. My childhood home was on one side of her house, and I purchased the house on the other side of her almost nine years ago. She was always the type of person to keep an eye on our home when we were gone, making sure the cats were fed, the plumbing hadn’t sprung any leaks, and reporting any visitors that we might have missed during our absence.
There is a window on the end of her house that faces our driveway and is near where she normally sat. Any time we had visitors, it always amused me to see her peeking out her mini-blinds to see who was there. The fact that the light was on in her house and we could see her entire profile lit up in the window never seemed to deter her in the least. We always just pretended that we couldn’t see her and got a good laugh out of it.
These days, we’re the ones watching out for her. We usually go to the nursing home every day and spend a couple of hours visiting with her, which helps keep her spirits up and enables us to stay on top of her eating habits. She lost almost 10 pounds in the first two weeks following her surgery because she wouldn’t hardly eat a thing.
As I’ve mentioned before, the lady that lives in the room with her suffers from Alzheimer’s. Her husband normally sits with her for most of the day, but has recently been hospitalized with IBS and had a colostomy. This change in routine has caused Emily to become rather depressed and combative.
During our visit on Tuesday, she decided that she needed to use the bathroom and asked for our help. After we explained that we would have to page a nurse to help her, she became very angry and assailed us with insults about “not being Christians” and something about Presbyterians, which I couldn’t exactly understand but found quite funny. However, her situation was far from humorous.
The facility where Mrs. J lives is obviously understaffed, although I think that part of the problem lies with certain nurses who simply don’t care enough to take care of business. They’d rather clean up a person after they’ve messed themselves, than to help that person onto a toilet or bedpan.
Yesterday, Emily once again informed us that she had to go to the restroom. We pushed an alert button to call a nurse and the waiting game began. As she became more and more irate, she began pulling her pants down. Considering the fact that she was sitting up in a wheelchair and has around 80% of her motor skills, this was no small feat.
After several minutes of waiting, we finally decided to go into the hall to track someone down for help. After attracting the attention of two nurses and informing them of the situation, they simply told Emily that she would have to wait because they were busy with another patient. Explaining such things to someone in her condition is quite pointless, of course.
Over the next hour, Emily managed to remove her shoes, pants, and soiled diaper and placed all of them on the floor underneath her chair. The call light for her room was on for the entire time, even though we noticed a gaggle of nurses carrying on a conversation in the hallway just outside the room for several minutes. Finally, some nurses arrived, cleaned her up, and put her to bed for the evening.
I can’t help but worry about the care that our neighbor is getting while we aren’t there. I know that most of the time she is taken care of pretty well, but watching her roommate sit in her own excrement for an hour leaves me with plenty of doubt. I suspect Emily’s situation would have never occurred if her husband had been there, as the nurses seem to pay the most attention to patients that have visitors.
Perhaps watchful eyes are a strong motivator, and maybe this is our opportunity to repay her for keeping an eye on us for all of these years.