Every occupation has certain expected risk associated with it. Look at how many convenience stores employees are harmed in a robbery gone bad; or how many police officers are shot in the line of duty….or how many construction workers sustain major injury while on the job. Even the friendly mailman risks being bitten by a dog….but what risks is associated with being a long-term health care administrator? What is the worst possible thing that could go wrong?
Well, to answer that, let me share what happened on Monday in my building and how something very bad could have happened………
My office is located at the front door. I see and greet every visitor, family member, guest and employee that comes and goes. Due to the volume of guests that frequent the facility, I may not always know who ” belongs” to which resident, but for the most part, I have a general idea. I do at times, get thrown off when the” great-grandchild on Uncle Harry’s side twice removed and related by marriage” visits, but other than that, I know who’s who.
Monday. Let’s talk about what happened Monday.
While sitting at my desk, I see Bonnie and Sandy pass through the door. They greet me with the normal ” howdy-do” to which I exchange with a “hey ya’ll.”. Suddenly I hear a voice, coming from the doorway.
Glancing up, I see a woman…an oddly dressed, disheveled and very loud woman, standing in my doorway. A large Minnie Pearl style floppy hat, dark sunglasses, a trench coat and “jail issued slides” were the first thing that caught my attention.
“ Well hey! Are you interested in pornographic Bibles? I have a ton of pornographic Bibles that I am handing out. Do you like my shoes? I call them my jail slippers. I think they are nice for jail slippers. Do you like my hat? “ Before I could remotely gather my thoughts, stand up, or whip out my concealed carry sidearm…..she caught the attention of one of the male residents. .. ” Do you want to by my boyfriend? I need a boyfriend to string up. I am here to spread joy and cheer and visit”. With that, she turned and walked with purpose toward one of the dining rooms as if she had done this a million times before.
Jennifer,the Director of Nursing, had been in the office as all of this was taking place. I quickly whispered, “Which family does she belong to? Could it be one of the recent move in folks and we just don’t know her? Without hesitation , she replied, ” I don’t know but she is nutty as a fruit cake. Pornographic BIBLES...really????”
Without second thoughts Jen and I sprung into action. Well, not really. I was still not sure if this lady was a relative of a resident that I just hadn’t met and the last thing I wanted to do was call the police on an actual guest! I had to be sure. Jennifer and I ” tailed” her into the dining room, watching as she sat down with a group of ladies who had just finished lunch. We observed from the Charge Nurse’s Desk, safely behind a glass window.
” Did you ladies just have lunch? Did you have golosh? ( I have no idea how to spell golosh, nor do I know what it is, nor do I intend on ever eating it, but hopefully you know what it is and will overlook my inability to spell it).
” I love these types of homes. I enjoy being full of cheer. Oh look, a kitty cat. What a pretty kitty cat. Nice kitty cat. Did you eat golosh today? I love golosh. My aunt Maddy made the best chicken………”
By now, I think or am fairly sure that this lady is a few french fries short of a Happy Meal. but I am not positive, so I enlist the Charge Nurse to go investigate further. ” Go introduce yourself, ask if you can help her and ask who she is here to see” I whisper .
” Hi, my name is Donna and I am the Charge Nurse. Who are you seeing today?” she asked.
The lady, engaged immediately with Donna. ” I am here to spread cheer. My aunt Maddy was in a place like this. You know what happened to her? She died. She made the most fabulous fried chicken. You know how she did it? She browned it…..”
Donna was clearly in my line of view and I could tell that she was not too happy with me for sending her into a crazy conversation. She was smiling and nodding along with the crazy lady as she rambled on about Maddy’s fried chicken.
Jennifer is pretty no-nonsense and had heard enough. She loudly exclaimed…” Jessi, this chick is mental and I recommend you call the authorities.”. Before I could agree, crazy lady jumped up from the dining room chair, waved goodbye…stopping briefly at the desk to say ” Goodbye my new friends” . Off she went, back out the front door, leaving us standing there, looking at one another as if to say, “what just happened?”
We chuckled at the insanity of the moment and quickly scattered , returning to our duties. Hours passed. People came by and left the facility without incident. Pet therapy dogs stopped in, the Library on Wheels dropped off new books….family members came and went.
Just a few minutes after 4pm, Jennifer appeared in the doorway announcing she knew much more about the “crazy-lady”. Apparently, the Library on Wheels folks knew of and about her. She is indeed ” off her medication”, attends any AA, NA or other organized meeting that provides food, simply to enjoy the feast of donuts and coffee, and she lives in her car. She wears a variety of costumes/outfits including Bunny outfits, Top Hat and Trench coats and often wears doctor’s scrubs and lab coats. Okay, the bunny ears and floppy hats made me laugh, but there is nothing funny about wearing scrubs…or masquerading as a medical person. To me that is scary.
Think about the size of your local hospital. When you walk in, normally, if you look like you know where you are going, no one stops you. You have the whole hospital to explore without question. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are no different. We are public places, yet private. Not just any Joe blow should get past the front desk….nor be able to wander through the facility. It is the obligation and duty of the person sitting at the front door, whether it be a receptionist, security guard, administrator or head nurse to insure the safety and well-being of those inside.
Let us never forget Carthage, North Carolina, March 29, 2009. A gunman walked through the nursing home opening fire on anyone he saw, killing 8 innocent people. Remember, most of those killed that day ,were elderly residents. Granted that incident was spurred by domestic violence, the gunman was looking for his wife who was on locked unit………but it could have happened anywhere, any time…to any one of us.
I dodged a bullet on Monday with the crazy lady. My slow response to stopping her and the second guessing of myself as to who she was, could have spiraled out of control. Guarding the front door and protecting those in my care and the employees is not only my duty, but my obligation as well simply because of my title. The lesson we can all learn from Monday, is to know who is who, and rather than second guessing, simply ask the person in question. If she can walk into my facility, she can walk into yours……..