Sunday, May 3, 2015


        It all started innocently enough.
     I was sitting on the dining hall with my laptop shortly after the custodial crew had hosed the place down from the lunch crowd. Nicole T came in with a clipboard. She told me she had a survey she was asking residents to fill out. Would I answer some questions. My mind was half listening to her and half dwelling on a blog post I was posting, but I said yes. Answer a quality control survey? Sure. What trouble could that possibly cause?
     The initial questions were general inquiries about the food, activities, access to resources and the like. The survey did not appear to require much thought. But towards the end, the questions more pointed. My answers had to address personal incidents probably best left in the past. But I was sloppy enough to address them anyway.
     “Are you happy with your room? Your roommate?” Nicole T asked.
     “Well, you remember the circumstances in which I wound up there?” I asked.
     Of course, she did. Nicole T had been directly responsible for the decision to move me in with Caligula according to both Paulette and Ellen. I opted not to be directly accusatory. My probable bleeding ulcer and accompanying weakness meant I was not eager for conflict. Nicole T must have agreed. She simply nodded affirmatively.
     “Obviously, I didn't want to be there in the first place. I asked to move as far back as January,” I continued.
She seemed genuinely surprised. “You've been asking to move since January? Who have you asked”
     “Paulette three times. I even asked Sonya to intervene. I was told 'It's going to be a while.' A while has turned out to be nearly six months and counting. I even asked DHEC for help with some of the run down issues.”
     “Are there still any problems?"
    “The industrial fan runs 24/7 on the other side of the wall by the head of my bed. It's aggravating.”
     Nicole T scribbled furiously on her clipboard. As she did, I was thinking about how—yet again—Paulette had simply dropped an issue with which she did not want to deal. As the social worker, she was in charge of room change requests. I long assumed she played a larger role in the Caligula mess, but such is long since irrelevant.
     “Have you had any problems with staff? Has anyone yelled at you or was aggressive towards you?” Nicole t asked without looking up from her clipboard.
     “Just for full disclosure, there was Patricia. Back when she was my sitter, she told me it was a waste of time. If I was going to commit suicide, I would have already smothered myself with a pillow or hung myself with the nurse call button. But I reported her to Paulette. I never saw her around after that, so I assume she was fired for it,' I told her.
     “Do you have any other issues?”
     “Like what/”
     “Like are you happy with your routine? Any problems with another resident? Is anything of yours missing?”
     The last question caused the missing orthopedic knife to pop into my head. It had been confiscated the day the kitchen did not give me silverware and there was an assumption I had stolen them. I was given plastic silverware from then until the sitting ended. But the orthopedic knife had never been returned. While it made cutting meat easier, it was not essential. I had other, more important issues with which to deal. So I never mentioned it until.
     “It is not essential, since I use regular silverware, but I had an orthopedic knife. It was confiscated during the sitters. It was never given back. It was mine, though. I got it at McLeod, so there's a general principle involved.”
     “Okay,' Nicole t said as she wrote this down. “Now, if you had to rate Oakhaven a number between one and ten, what would you give it?”
      I rolled this question around. I obviously did not think highly of this place, but I could not simply give it a one or two without the appearance of ax grinding. I liked the nursing staff and despised management, so I spit it down the middle.
     “Five,” I said after a thoughtful pause.
     “Would you recommend Oakhaven to someone else?”
     “No,” I said. But it occurred to me a more thoughtful answer was needed. 'Not unless a family member will be constantly checking in on their loved one. There is a marked difference how residents are treated when a family member is around versus when the are not. If someone was looking in on me, I think you all would have lacked the nerve to treat m the way you often have.”
     My answer sounded more provocative than it should have, but I could not take it back once it was out there. Nicole t wrote for another minute, then thanked me and left. I assumed, since she had declared at the very beginning this was a general survey being given to all residents, this was the end of it. Boy, was I wrong.
     The next morning, I laid back down after breakfast. As I was lounging, Ticia came in and told me Paulette wanted to see me in Brock's office. I groaned at the prospect of not only having to get out of bed, but to do so in order to speak to Paulette. It took me a split second to register all Ticia had said.
     “Wait...Paulette wants to see me in Brock's office? That means Brock is going to be there,” I said.
     “That don't mean it's bad,” Ticia assured me
     With the survey I answered yesterday fresh in my mind, I was confident it did, indeed, mean some thing bad. “Crap,” I said to myself as I got up to sit on the side of the bed and grab my shoes.
     Once out the door, I walked passed Lucy, the CNA in charge of physical therapy for resident not in full fledged physical therapy. At the time, I was an illustrious member in good standing o those folk. She stopped me by calling my name. I turned around.
     “I'm gong to come bother you later,” she said. 'bothering me' was a playful way of telling me today was one of my three therapy days with her.
     “Okay. I guess I won't be gone too long,” I said.
     "Where are you going?” Lucy asked.
     “Mordor,” I quipped.
   “What now?” Lucy laughed.
    “I have been summoned to Brock’s office.'
    “Oh, Lord,” she said, again laughing.
    “hopefully, I will make it back to the shire in one piece.''
    When I got to Brock’s office, I stood in the doorway. I wanted to survey the place to see into what kind of ambush I was walking. Unfortunately, most of the office could not be seen until you walked in. I could, however, see Brock at her desk. She got up, greeted me, and pulled a chair into the middle of the room. She beckoned me to sit. I came in and sat. When she took a moment to close the door, I utilized the time to notice Nicole T sitting on a chair along the wall parallel to Brock’s desk. Paulette sat in a chair between her and the desk. This was definitely about the survey. I wanted to nip it in the bud, but I waited for Brock to settle in before speaking.
     “I assume this is about that survey. I am feeling very weak. My hemoglobin is dropping, and it's probably from a bleeding ulcer. I am really not in shape for any drama.'
     “You answered questions. They revealed you had problems,' Nicole said.
     “You said everyone was given this survey as a quality control. I was under the impression there would be no follow up,” I said while trying to sound as uninterested as humanly possible.
     “Well, you could have refused!” Brock snapped.
     I will be the first one to admit to having no clue what makes Brock tick. But I and most anyone else who has had the misfortune of dealing with her can tell you an arrogant contempt lies just below a paper thin surface. I do not think I can adequately convey the contempt in her voice when she said this. I was not cooperating with what she wanted, and she was furious.
     “Well, next time, I will,” I said. Truth be told, I had the option of leaving right then. But Brock's attitude angered me. Fine, I thought to myself. If she ants to know what I think, I will tell her.
   “All right..about Patricia,” Brock began. “I had never heard of this happening…."
     “I reported the incident to Paulette the first opportunity I got.”
     "I don't remember that,” Paulette said.
    “I came in first thing the Monday morning after it happened. You took it all down on Post It notes and carried them right into Brock's office. It was the same meeting in which I switched doctors from Hokanson to Lilly. Shameeka was my sitter. She was waiting right outside your door.”
     “I don't remember it,” Paulette repeated.
     “She was never around again. I assumed she had been fired. She was on the initial probationary period, anyway.”
     “She had a heart attack, and was on sick leave for a while,'” Brock interjected. “i guess she's on disability now. She came in when that Marion nursing home closed down. She came with Deborah. Neither one of them stayed long.”
     If I was already angry at being forced to discuss these issues, I was simmering at this point. There was at least one lie here somewhere. Paulette definitely reported the Patricia incident to Brock. I watched her go into Brock's office with the Post It notes. Either they did not do anything for whatever reason, or Brock plain forgot about the incident by the morning of this meeting, and Paulette decided to plead ignorance rather than question Brock's faulty memory. Whichever the case, I had been sold out by the two of them. Not for the first time, I might add.
     “About the knife...the kitchen cannot find it, so we will replace it,” Brock said. “You were threatening to harm yourself. You understand we had your personal safety in mind.'
     "Considering you took it away the day after you moved me in with Caligula, I would say no. my personal safety was not on your mind,' I said.
Brock immediately responded with her signature move. I am not sure if I can adequately describe it so you can form an image in your mind. She jerks her head to the left and blows out air in a manner almost like blowing a raspberry. Even if you cannot visualize the move, understand it is Brock's way of demonstrated utmost contempt for the perceived insult. This was not the first time it had been hurled in response to me. It certainly would not be the last. Fortunately, Paulette and Nicole T. with the move and its implications. Nicole T opted to conduit the questioning herself before the situation escalated.
     “You said you would would to move from your current room,” she said.
     "Maybe, maybe not,” I said.
Brock could not help herself. “You said you don't like the industrial fan's noise.”
     “I like dementia induced screaming fits, being cussed at and thrown out in the middle of the night, and being strangled by a schizophrenic even less.”
     “What are you saying?” Brock asked.
     “I'm saying I don't trust your judgment. Every time a new roommate has been chosen for me, he's been progressively more abusive.”
     “Well, who's judgment do you trust?” Nicole t asked.
     “Mine,” I answered point blank.
     “Fine,” Brock said. She looked towards Nicole T. “let him look at any rooms that open up. He can decide.
     Nicole T nodded, but clearly had more on her mind. “You said you don't trust us. You need to trust us. We're your caregivers.”
     “Then start caring. You decided to put me in a mental institution without saying a word to me before, during or after. You won't even say whose decision it was.'
“It was my choice,” Brock finally admitted.
     I knew that, but Paulette had maintained it was Dr. Hiatt's idea. I opted not to pursue the line. There was no sense in opening up another front when I did not ask for the battle in which I was currently embroiled as it was.
      "That's not the only time.  none of you said a word after Caligula attacked me.  no explanations.  no apologies.  No of you even asked if i was okay.  you just plain did not care."
         I noticed Nicole T shoot a horrified glance at both Brock and Paulette.   She had not been expecting this, and had no answers.  I figured it was a good idea to shift to a line of questioning to which they could respond.  
     “How about tell me what medical necessity means.” I said. “Even my allies won't tell me that means.”
      “What?' Brock asked.
     “Medical necessity. I was told it was medical necessity to move me in with Caligula. What does it mean?”
     Brock leaned into Paulette and said, loud enough for me to hear, 'In his mind, this all goes back to that.” She then looked towards me. “you both needed sitters, and we didn't have enough people to look after you.”
     I rolled my eyes. I was entitled. Her patronizing aside to Paulette was incredibly insulting in the first place. Her rationale for trapping me with a schizophrenic who needed a sitter because he tried to suffocate his roommate was ridiculous, yet she acted as though it was beyond criticism. I was supposed to see her obvious wisdom. I did not.
     “Oh, good Lord! You took that big a risk because you didn't want to hire someone else or pay overtime! It's all about money.”
      “We're spending a lot of money on you!” she shouted at me.
     There was a long silence. During the silence, Brock began fiddling with papers on her desk. She clearly was not doing anything with them. It was just her way of letting me know she was done with me. Nicole T and Paulette glanced at each other while trying to decide what to do next. I contemplated throwing my hands in the air and walking out, but Paulette spoke up before I could do so.
     “Why are you acting this way?”
     “I told you I was not feeling well, and did not want to do this. You forced me to. When I am being attacked, I fight back. It's the lawyer in me.”
     “Do you want to transfer to another facility?” Nicole T asked.
    “It would just be the same hell, different devils. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.” I was antsy to end this meeting. I could feel my heart rate and blood pressure soaring. “Look, we have the knife issue settled and a room change in the works. Are we not done?”
     “Yes. It's all done,” Nicole T said.
   “Good.” I got up and walked out. I needed An Vatican before I suffered a stroke.

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