Friday, August 17, 2012

What's that smell?

I have no issue with disgusting topics (as many of you, my dear friends and blog readers, are well aware).  Wait a moment, should I preface this posting with some sort of cautionary warning? Hmm, since I'm never quite sure what's about to flow out of my fingertips, consider this ample notice; please finish whatever you're eating now.

When I worked as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), it was almost comical what we discussed over lunch.  I'll spare you the lurid details but many times I'd stop and literally say, "Are we seriously talking about this over roast beef and mashed potatoes?"  You see, RNs (Registered Nurses), are those who administer the medication and ensure that the doctor's orders are followed.  CNAs are responsible for the extremely personal care of the elderly and the sick.  Next time you're in a hospital or a residential facility, acknowledge them in the hallway and smile.  One day you'll be looking into the eyes of one.  Thank them for what they do.  It's brutal work and yet they do it with a sense of humor that would astound you.

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What's that smell?

"Honey, I can't find my teef."

Oh dear, I thought to myself.  Miranda* was at it again.  My dear, sweet Miranda.  Her dementia was always an issue.  She was a lovely, laughing soul but for the life of her she couldn't remember what she did with anything.  This morning she seemed particularly annoyed which was unusual.  Normally, whether she misplaced her dentures or not, her sense of humor was always upbeat.  Not today.  She was frowning, her wig as well as her bright green pants were on backwards, and her polyester shirt was buttoned incorrectly.  She had soggy cracker crumbs down the front of her black, whiskered chin and her yellow sweater had gravy stains on it from the night before.  It was going to be difficult to have Miranda to change her clothes in her current mood.  Plus, the room she shared with Selma*, who was non-ambulatory, smelled like urine and her roommate was "dry".  What was that smell?

"Miss Miranda, did you go potty in the bathroom?"

Miranda's eyes nearly exploded out from behind her coke-bottle glasses.  "Of courthe, I did!  Why would you athk thuch a thilly quethion?" 

"Well, it smells really strong like urine in here, that's all."

When I said that, I noticed Selma give me a knowing glance so I dropped the topic and started looking around for Miranda's dentures.  Within moments, I found them wrapped in wads of toilet paper in her sweater pocket.  Without stating my discovery, I made mention about her buttons, rinsed off her teeth in the bathroom, and found a replacement sweater in her closet.  As I did all this, I fluttered about trying to make Miranda giggle.  It's amazing what a little bit of laughter can do to lift the spirits in a nursing home.

"Oh Miss Miranda?"

"Yeth dear?

"Here's your teeth."

"Lovely!"

"By the way, let's turn your pants and wig around.  You're just too beautiful to be walking into breakfast backwards this morning."

"Oh, Heaventh!"

Clothing mishap solved.  Off my sweet Miranda went giggling to herself all the way down the corridor.  Now it was time get Selma dressed, ready for the assisted breakfast in the dining room, and find out what she knew about the urine smell.  She looked at me with those wise, ancient, and wonderful eyes I'd come to love so much.  I laughed out loud because Selma had such a dry sense of humor and was obviously waiting to share it.

"Well, my dear?  What's the story?  You're smiling at me because I know you know what's going on with your roommate."  

"See that tiny flower vase over there?"

"Yes?"  It was a tiny, single stemmed vase that Miranda had received for Mother's Day a few weeks earlier."

"She's been using that."

I stared at it in disbelief.  "NO!  How's that possible?"

"I don't know, but she's doin' it."

I walked over to the vase on the floor and sure enough it was filled to the brim with urine.  Oh my God!  I laughed hysterically.  Nothing could surprise me anymore.  I guess it's time to remove the vase from the room.  Miranda was amazing - not one drop spilled! 


*Names have been changed for privacy purposes