Feb 17, 2009

Masquerade

No, I'm not going to drag out that rather hackneyed bit about masks and how we all wear 'em, even if it IS one of my favourite brain-candy subjects. You know it, I know it, it's how we get by in today's full speed ahead society. And yes, I watched the new Family Guy episode Sunday too. *wink*

Not even gonna talk about American Idol, tho I have to admit Ryan DID do a nice job of recovering from a major screw-up on live TV. You go, Tiny Gay Man. Certainly better than Batman handled things last time.

I will, however, perhaps talk a little about Mardi Gras and Carnivale, and definitely some about a patient of ours who went rats-in-the-head crazy today. I may also talk about tits a little, we'll just have to see where the writing takes us, yes?

Today was weird, and by weird I mean 'gnawing the inside of your cheek to keep from climbing the walls' weird. The day went in all sorts of strange directions--Sweaty Fat Rolls, my ample coworker did even less than usual, leaving to run errands for the other office ladies twice before noon, then leaving for the day when I got back from lunch. Our clinical manager was gone for the day too, out marketing to doctors and such so we were really short-handed. Never fun in an office this small, but as fun as a swift kick in the gonads when you have a patient go insane on you.

In the home health industry you tend to get a lot of old people. No big deal, I like old people. You also get a lot of sick folks, people with surgical wounds, people that have problems that just don't get better anymore, so you get to work with people who are tired, hurting, and sometimes not at their best. The funny thing is, even though these people are sick and hurting and lonely I still have met more of them who are upbeat and happy than I ever met working some two decades in retail. *shrug* Go figure.

It's also not a shock to find the occasional abuser in the system. These folks are old, often confused, brains drying up and more often than not they're taking so much medication for so many different ailments that their mediplanners, little plastic boxes the size of a square salad plate with compartments marked for each day of the week and four times a day are so complex that they have to have our nurse fill it for them each week. I can't even begin to imagine the side-effects and counter-effects and cross-effects that all those weird chemicals have on these old people. The opportunity for pain pill abuse is also right there. Doc is giving you pain pills for your constant aches, so why not take two instead of one and sleep the afternoon away? Why not take a handful and really visit Lala Land?

We've got a patient like that. She had four different doctors (each unaware of the other) prescribing pain meds for her. Funny thing, it made her the Penultimate Southern Gentlewoman. She never rushed, always had a complimentary word for me, asked about me on the rare occasions I didn't answer the phone, and wouldn't see her nurse or therapists until they'd called ahead and let her know they were coming so she could be fully dressed (and by that I mean a dress, hose, shoes, everything but a hat and a pair of white gloves) and ready to receive them. I guess being mostly snowed most of the time makes it easier to be genteel. Who knew?

Then there's the lady today. She's been a patient of ours forever and a day, and has always had a kind word for me, even when she was having a bad day. She'd call, we'd chat briefly, I'd ask after her health and she'd tell me, either good or bad. I'd celebrate or commiserate with her, offer a few more kind words of encouragement and then route her call accordingly.

It didn't matter to me that her kids (both lawyers) had pretty much abandoned her, didn't matter that the nurses came back with horror stories of animals in the house and uncleaned feces and urine everywhere, fleas and roaches covering every surface in the summer and her with unhealing, open wounds. What mattered is that I could always be civil to her, polite and friendly, and she'd return the favor. I liked to think that I gave her a little light in what had to be a pretty dark life. Well, that changed pretty radically today.

She's taken to abusing her pain pills, you see, and along with her otherwise huge regime of meds it's changed her. Turned her into someone else entirely, a hateful harridan who lives only to manipulate, cajole, fight, snark and otherwise let every ounce of her body be atuned to hurting someone else. She started calling today threatening, cursing, accusing and outright lying, all with a weirdly flat affective, as though she'd suddenly come down with schizophrenia. Voice flat and almost emotionless, she'd call and deliver threats and lies equally with a flat, clear voice. We had to start putting her on speakerphone so that an extra person could serve as witness when the threats of legal action and physical violence began, and then we had to carefully and painstakingly record everything that occurred, in compliance with Department of Health and Hospitals regulations.

It got weird and sad and ugly. She took to calling and hanging up on us, like a ten year old playing phone pranks, then started accusing us of doing the same to her. It made me feel bad, wired and keyed up, tensed for the next blow and it made me think about the incredible complexity of the human brain, and how little it takes at times to tilt us so far off what we think of as a 'normal' range. Naturally all this was compounded by my having to do two and a third jobs at once when I can't even keep my one job's responsibilities up. Can you say "agitated"? I knew you could.

What surprised me was my office manager's behaviour. She sat in her office and received some of the most startling abuse with calm aplomb and a smile. She spoke politely, never raised her voice, was never anything but the very soul of compassion. Granted, when it was all done she'd often get up and get a big cup of coffee, wishing, I'm sure, that she had some Bailey's to mix in. I admire her deeply for her calmness. I wasn't having too much of this abuse directed at me and I was blushing, gasping, and toward the end of the day I was finding my inner monkey's hackles raising, wanting to leap up and defend myself, the company, my coworkers. I was ready to fling some poo at someone, I was.

The only thing that kept me from doing so was that same twenty years of retail, where I learned that it doesn't help to yell back, that most times that's what they WANT. It also helped to think of that old lady who used to talk to me about this and that who is still in there somewhere, unseated from her usual self by this...Other, created like Mary Shelly's misunderstood creature from odd bits and pieces, hit by the lightning of a bizarre and unnatural chemical brew and sent lurching out into the world to devastate and destroy.

Anyway. *S*

It's also almost Mardi Gras, and for the first time ever I'm going...well, close to New Orleans. You'd not catch me dead in the midst of that city-wide mania but this year you could catch me an hour or so away from it. In a New Orleans suburb, actually, there to attend a more family-friendly parade with the family. Lots less drinking, lots less full frontal nudity. Two parades I'm told, tho I don't know if the second parade we're attending is more or less family-oriented. I'm excited, actually, went so far as to buy a beautiful purple, green and gold mask to wear when I'm out yelling myself hoarse for beads and cups and throws of every sort. Which will end up, as always, in a big box or paper bag and get stuffed into the Art Closet where they'll sit.

Naturally as always I'm of two minds about it. I always have fun at Mardi Gras time, enjoy the foolishness and the masquerades and so forth, even if I haven't ever been to a Krewe party or a Mardi Gras ball. Part of me is really excited to be getting fairly close to the -real- Mardi Gras, where each Krewe actually hosts their own parade, not just single floats from each Krewe in a single parade down the maind drag. A tiny part of wants to sneak into the Krewe of Zulu parade where white people fear to tread and my dream moment of catching a gold coconut might be given fruition. Then there's part of me who really wishes it weren't Mardi Gras, because I'm desperate to get to Meyer The Hatters on Canal Street, so I can get my fedora on.

But I digress into haberdashery.

Interesting highlight--I'm told my father-in-law is going to dress as Elvis (I guess the short, middle-aged Chicano Elvis, not the young dashingly handsome Elvis nor the fat-drunk-dead-on-a-toilet one,) and I'm told by quite a few people that he actually makes a fairly passable duplicate for The King. Should be weird.

I promise lots of photos.

7 comments:

Clowncar said...

I got arrested at Mardi Gras, many years ago when I was young and foolish (I'm still foolish). Spent 2 days in jail. Got out just in time for Fat Tuesday itself. Truth be told, I enjoyed jail nearly as much as my freedom - I had romantic notions about rebel artistic lifestyles and other foolishness back then.

Jean said...

So, what will become of the patient who went over the edge?
Stories like this make me even more determined to avoid as many medications as possible...forever.

Elvis is overrated.
But, definitely do lots of pics.
Have much fun!

Jean said...

hey hey! The haiku topic at Sparrow's this week is TRAINS!!
C'mon, throw some brilliance in there *g*

Maggie said...

That poor woman. Don't you wish you could reach through the phone and give her something to reverse the effects of the meds? You guys are saints.

Ooh yes, photos please!

meno said...

Man, it's tough to take abuse like that. Whew. Points to your office manager for dealing with it calmly.

Looking forward to the pictures.

Irrelephant said...

DID YOU NOW, Old Bean? Oh you need to tell me more! *lol*

Jean, she actually asked for a discharge from our services and took up with another home health the same afternoon. I guess they'll keep her for as long as possible. I hate to say it but I'm honestly hoping that Elder Protective Services gets involved and gets her somewhere safe for her own good.

Trains, eh? Done and done!

Maggie, it just pains me, and has been haunting at the back of my head since then. I always want to help, but I know (after 40 years) that there's just some cases when I would only do more harm than good.

TELL me, meno! She made me awfully proud of her for keeping her composure through call after call full of abuse.

Gordo said...

The way our health system treats seniors is a crime: throw drugs at them to take care of the latest ailment with nary a thought for what unintended consequence will follow from the latest ingredient in the witches brew.

We don't do Mardi Gras up here. Boy, that would liven up mid-winter, wouldn't it? I can't imagine there'd be much frontal-nudity, though. Heck, there's been a disturbing dearth of public boobies, even in summer, since the courts made baring them legal. LOL