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Care Giver

April 2002 I started my first job in the USA
an Alzheimer and Dementia, seven house facility
ten residents, men and women I was to oversee
cook for next days meals, cleaning and laundry

I worked Friday to Sunday, on the Noct Shift
eight hours Friday and 12 hour weekend
with their policies and procedures, I was adrift
no one bothered to show me so I could blend

I struggled with their menu, I am a good cook
there wasn't the ingredients to follow their book
I had not heard of many of the dishes
how was I ever to understand their wishes?

Three meals of hamburger in a period of three days?
because these residents are alzheimer and dementia
should not do this because they don't remember
afterall their families were paying their way!

A day staff Leaving them in wet pyjamas for hours
not giving them their showers
throwing left over food in the trash
a resident who naps has to have a sandwich?

I asked questions to my House Manager
her reply, I don't know what to tell ya
go ask Mary-anne in Human Resources
or Belinda, the Facilities Manager

I disliked how these residents were treated
it might be legal, but extremely unethical
placing residents who fight in together
disrupting the whole household altogether

Residents get hurt and pushed to the floor
you cannot be everywhere at once and see through walls
ambulance comes and takes resident to care
restore some order with the Floater once she's there

There should be two on duty for all three shifts
money won't be spent on extra, those spendthrifts!
They only gave 32 hours for each staff member
so no one could earn more than 40 hours as carer

Resident dies after being hurt in several falls
family arrives before he is made presentable
funeral director arrives with his gurney
bags him up to leave on his last journey

what sort of nonsense is this I question
to treat our loved ones in this awful fashion
there is no dignity given once he has died
haven't time to dress his bare body, to restore some pride

I would not treat him like this, when he was alive
so why would anyone do this now that he has died?
this is not how I was trained back in New Zealand
dignity was given, bathed, dressed hair brushed for presentation

no back up while you work night hours alone
you're suppose to carry a big cordless phone
they are cumbersome things and they fall from your pocket
getting in the way so you put it up on the locker

dial seven numbers for floaters phone,
then seven numbers for your own
who can remember when you have an emergency
when you need help desperately, urgently

I got beaten up by a big burly resident
by surprise, cornered, trapped like a rodent
he was hitting me about my body and head
I covered my face with my arms, and bent

I tried to push him off but he was too large
so I ran at him and gave a big heave
flaying my arms so he would back off and leave
I accidently struck him, he said I would be dead

Floater came and inspected him,
no one cared about the state I was in
wrote in the logs that I had hit him
time to go home I am all weak and done in

Three days later I am called to the Manager
wanted to know how this resident was striking in anger
It turned out he had a UTI and no one wrote it down
how was I to know that directing him would cause this meltdown?

They let me go, said staff cannot hit residents
at home I was completely and utterly devastated
news stories report residents harming and killing
yet staff alone cannot protect against these bashings

I asked some other caregivers what would they do?
they said they would write nothing, about them hitting too
I was honest when I wrote, it was a bad mistake
I just felt threatened and this is my heartache

Amanda Martin-Shaver
28 March 2009

Note: Names used are fictional

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Amanda Martin-Shaver