Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I don't know how it happened, but I finally fell asleep last night. It wasn't very much. Maybe three or four hours between 10 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., but it was still sleep, and after almost two weeks without it, it was most welcome.

This was despite the fact that around 9:00 p.m. last night, the woman I had referred to as "the human alarm clock" next door went batshit crazy last night. She is a very old, very frail, African-American woman, who often forgets where she is. Last night she didn't recognize anyone and started freaking out on her roommate, another elderly African-American woman. They share the same name, and I will stop referring to the first woman as "the alarm clock," and call her Crazy Alice and her roommate as just plain "Alice".

I ws just about to watch an episode of Heroes, one of the few things I have to look forward to each week, when all of a sudden Crazy Alice flipped out on Alice. "Help! Police!" yelled Crazy Alice. "There someone in my house. You better get out of here or I'll get my gun!" This went on and on for at least fifteen minutes before the nurse came into the room. The amount of time it took for the nurse to arrive, who was standing out in the hall, about fifteen feet from their room, shows how common scenes like this happen here in the home. The staff here has become so jaded at hearing people yell "Help" that I don't think they hear the word anymore. After a year of being here, it's even hard for me to take the word seriously anymore.

Everybody tried to calm down Crazy Alice. The roommate, Alice, who has to be a saint because she has lived with Crazy Alice for as long as I can remember, the nurse, and two male nursing assistants tried calming Crazy Alice down. After about a half an hour they finally wheeled her away somewhere. By law the staff are unable to restrain any resident without family permission. This sounds reasonable, in theory, but I have seen dementia patients try to get out of their wheelchairs, only to fall flat on their faces, then have to be taken to the hospital to treat their injuries. The nursing home is too understaffed to keep an eye on all the patients that need to be protected from themselves. Or protected from each other (once I watched an old lady repeatedly hit a 40-year old retarded woman for five minutes before a nursing assistant wandered into the dining room to seperate them).

As far as Crazy Alice, my guess is they took her into the dining room or the front office to call her husband. I have never seen him visit, but he is always able to talk Crazy Alice down from her delusions. Afterward she seems calm for awhile, but it doesn't last long.

Anyway, she seemed better when I saw her in the hall this morning. At least she had her wig on. It can be disconcerting to see a bald old lady rolling down the hall, yelling "Help!" or threatening to get her gun, before I have had my first cup of coffee.

Whatever happened to Crazy Alice, I am sure they didn't abuse her. The one thing I haven't witnessed here is physical abuse. I have seen nursing assistants act curt, or completely ignore residents. Often myself I feel as they see me as a piece of furniture, like an end table or a lamp.

After the commotion died down and after I finished watching my program. I drifted off to sleep. As I often dream, I was dreamt I was walking somewhere, I don't know where. In this dream my life is normal. I had no memory of not being able to walk, or if I did, it seemed like a long time ago. But as usual, in these dreams, I encounter an obstacle. It is often stairs, or a steep hill, a fence, or a high window that I have to crawl through. Then I remember I can't walk. And I am in my chair. Then, if I don't wake up from the dream on my own, I am woken up by either a noise or someone turning on the lights in my room.

At about 4:30 a.m. this morning a nurse opened the door to my room and turned on the lights, only to realize she was in the wrong room. She meant to wake up Crazy Alice and Alice to see if Crazy Alice was O.K. and to tell them both goodbye because she, the nurse, was returning to Kenya with her kids because of the economy, and because she only stayed this long to see Barack Obama elected president. I know all this because the walls in this place are very thin. Since I had got some sleep, I was more forgiving than I usually would be. I also understood that since the nurse worked the graveyard shift, the only way she was going to be able to say goodbye to the two women, whom she must have cared for for years, was if she woke them up. I was able to drift off asleep again before the parade of nursing assistants came in to check blood pressures, empty urinals, draw blood, and bring my roommate his paper.

As bad as the food is here (stay tuned for that post!), the noise, the rampant insanity, and myriad of other complaints I have about this place, the lack of sleep I get ranks number one. I am very grouchy when I don't get any sleep. After many days of insomnia I can turn into a complete dick. And I don't like that. I hate it when I am rude or curt or unkind. Even though I am not religous, I always try to follow The Golden Rule. Treat people the way you want people to treat you. I don't like it when I give cause for people not to like me. I may an unreasonable need to be "liked" but that's something to talk to a shrink about.

Anyway, finally, I got a decent night's sleep. Let's try for two nights in a row.

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