Empty Faces


Empty spaces

Empty faces

Eyes glazed

Sleepy and dazed

Slouched in their seat

Feeling defeat

People walk by

No reason why

Not stopping to say

How are you today

Just another face

Among  human race

Another mouth to feed

To a heart that does bleed

Take them back to their room

That  is so full of gloom

Change their pants and then

Toss them to bed once again

No one taking the time

To see if they are fine

Walk by the door

Nope they’re not on the floor

Get them up one more time

Get them in the feeding line

Give them a bath or a shower

Get it done within an hour

Then put into bed

Without anything said

She asks as I leave

Can you come here please

Can you sit for a while

Can you offer me a smile…………..

Terry Shepherd




Me and My Camera

Today I went unannounced to see Al. When I first saw Al he looked like he was getting ready to cry. He perked up a little when he saw me. I took him some more treats and picked up the weapons.

I didn’t order lunch today after it was served to me cold the day before. I have to pay $3.50 for a guest tray and I would rather not eat then to pay and eat cold food. Al had lasagna and other things. The kitchen had not cut up his main dish and he kept trying and trying to do it himself. He did a couple of bites and then just started tremoring like crazy and crying.

He looked at me with those puppy dog eyes and cried saying, “I can’t do it. I really tried.” I understood but didn’t want to butt in until he gave me the signal. A couple of nurses walked by and saw him crying but why should they stop and ask anything, I was there. After they walked back by one did stop and ask and I said, ” He can’t cut this food. His hands are too weak. The kitchen should have cut it up or something.”

The nurse looked around like she was seeking help but no angels appeared. She gave a sigh and cut his food. While he was eating I took his goodies down to his room. I had taken my camera in with me today just in case.

When I walked into his room I was a little surprised at what I saw.

bed padPee stains

al's bedspreadHis bedspread and dirty clothing

al's pillowHis pillow

nail clippersWeapon number one

screwdriversWeapon number two

I took the weapons and put them in the sack I had taken Al’s goodies out of. I kept them in the sack so no one would try to set off alarms and call the police for attacker being in the building. This way they were safe and I wasn’t frisked.

I went back to where Al sat and stayed with him through his meal. I stopped a Nurse once again. I asked very nicely, “Sometime before I leave I would really appreciate it if someone would please change Al’s bedding.”

She said, “He had a shower yesterday. The beds are changed then.”

“I have the proof here on my camera that they are dirty. Shall I pull the camera out so you can see it for yourself?”


She turned around and walked off. Soon one of the department heads flew by me. Was there a fire? What the +++ is going on? Should I get Al and run out the front door?

In about ten minutes she came back with an aide. She came up to me and stopped. Taking a breath and pushing her hair out of her eyes the department head said, “His bed is changed. We don’t usually do this except on bath and shower day.”

“Well at my house we do it different. If it gets dirty, we change it, even if it is seven days a week or more than once a day. If I wouldn’t want to lay in dirt, then I have to assume Al doesn’t either.”

She smiled at me and left. Her aid or helper smiled at me and she left. I helped Al finish his dessert and then took him back to his room. Bed was all nice and neat. I helped Al to the potty and he was soaked. Brief and outer pants. Just then the driver who takes Al to his outings on the two days a week walked in.

I explained that he had soaked through and we had to change his brief and outer pants. I said he should be fine now for a few hours. I added, “Would you like to take an extra brief with you in case he would have an accident?”

She looked at me and said, ” I don’t change briefs.”

Well good luck my dear brother. I did manage to get  a clean bed for you. You are on your own now. Please stay dry until you return.

Care Plan Meeting

Well it is over. The care plan meeting. It was a little odd because for the first time, I had the floor. They wanted to hear what I had to say. They asked questions. They didn’t end the meeting until every thing was spread out on the table. I felt like we clicked like peanut butter and jelly.

I voiced all of my thoughts I had written down. Changes were made according to what they have observed so far. I can deal with the changes because it will keep Al safer. There will be no more straws. He struggles to drink out of them but the issue is he can’t seem to release the grip on the straw. We are all concerned that he will suck the straw down his throat.

The second change is he will be moved to the second dining room. He is struggling to cut his food and he is taking too big of bites. With the independence he has of ordering his meals, he is eating too much and has gained eleven pounds. This is unacceptable for a heart patient and with his weakening mobility. In the second dining room he will be assisted in making better food choices. He will be observed more closely on choking and bite size.

He was able to keep his walker, but it is to be used to go into his bathroom or to the edge of his room door and then he is to ride in his wheel chair. We made notations that he needs his toenails cut. I made it quite clear that he has to have baby oil lightly rubbed into his hair and face daily. It was just awful to see the crusty formation of cradle crap. This can be controlled by the baby oil, but before, no one was listening.

Al was worried so bad about this meeting. Some one must have told him about it. I told him it was no big deal. It was just a get together to make his life as pain-free as possible. He seemed to lighten up a little.

I am sure he will miss his dining buddy, but I told him the two of them can visit after eating and also visit each others rooms. I explained that you could never have enough friends and now he was going to be able to make even more.

All in all, I walked a way satisfied and happy. Al was very chatty during his lunch. He said hi to everyone that walked by. I am sure everyone on the side that he lives, all know his name. The pain medication was working today. He said his legs did not hurt as bad.

The nurse said it may take a few days for the increase to kick in, and I can see that she was right. I thank-you for the prayers and God for letting me have a good visit with Al and the meeting. I know God was right there in the middle watching it all unfold.al


I Exploded Then Froze

Yesterday, I took one of my exercise classes and then because it was half off days at the local Dairy Queen, I went and bought Al and my meal and surprised him with junk food. When I went there, he was lying in the therapy room. Although there is no more therapy, Al believes that therapy will cure him, so the staff lets him lie on the therapy bed.

I told him that I had brought him a surprise lunch, but he didn’t seem eager to see it or eat. With some convincing we did go to lunch in the dining room. After eating I told him I would be back. I explained I had to take care of his bill.

I went to the office and found as I usually do each month, extra charges they have tacked on. We argued and discussed. In the end, his amount he owed was higher than the amount of disability that he gets. I was ready to pull my hair out.

I feel like these places are out to drain your pockets. I take everything for Al’s bathing that a king could possibly want. Instead of looking through one of the three drawers of his bathing tub, they go get something out of their own inventory and charge it to Al. I requested when I placed him there that there was to be no more therapy, as it had been determined that therapy was no longer helping his legs, but they did what they wanted and we have to pay the 20%. The next month I saw more therapy bills and threw a fit, but they ignored. Now this month again.

On top of the bad episodes in there, I found out that earlier therapy charges had been placed on Al from back in November. His current bill was showing I was late paying it by almost two hundred dollars. Although I had receipts showing Paid in Full, they had every excuse that led back to the same thing. We are the ones caring for Al.

I was so sick and tired of this that I exploded when I once again found out the barber had cut Al’s hair again. He has been in this new home for two months and has had three hair cuts at 10.75 each. Now you may be saying that isn’t a big deal, but it is.

Al is only allowed to have fifty dollars to his name in this place. They charge these hair cuts to his bank account within the facility. The other left over money is for him to spend on his desires, plus he likes to go on the van rides when he is lucky enough to get picked. They eat out and he has to pay for his own meal.

When February comes Al will start the new program that was funded in Indiana. A company will bring a van to him equipped with wheelchairs and ramps and he will get to get outside of these four walls twice a week. The catch is the funding is sort of for Al and sort of not. The funding pays for the gas and insurance of the van plus the pay of the company taking Al out. Al has to pay for each meal or anything he may want to buy. With forty dollars being left for him, I am forced to either tell him he can not go, or foot the bills myself.

I wish there was a magic fairy out there that was replenishing this fund so that he could go each time. I am struggling to find a job since he is no longer living here. So far I have had no luck. I pay for the gas that takes me to see him. I pay for his soda that although he doesn’t need, he has had one each night at bedtime for as long as I have known him.

Should I tell him he can’t have his soda anymore? I can’t do that, so I buy all of his pop too. Now I have to either add to his account so  he can go to these bi-weekly outings, which I think are good for him. Plus the fact that the funding program is to get disabled adults out of the nursing homes a couple of days a week. If I don’t add money myself they will not come get him any longer.

So when the office says we take care of him, so if you have to dip into his emergency funds to pay his bill here, we are sorry. I exploded yesterday. I really did! I told them that if they did one more therapy for Al without my permission, I was not paying it on Al’s behalf. I told them you can not do anything for Al without my prior permission unless it is life saving or from a fall. I told them no more hair cuts except every six weeks, and if they did, it was at their loss.

I was crying so hard and shaking from two months of watching them drain Al’s monies and then going into the funds that Medicaid allows him to keep which isn’t much considering Al’s young age.

As I left the meeting I went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up. I didn’t want Al to see me this way. He stresses over money anyways. The meeting lasted too long and his noon chat was over. I saw him in the middle of the dining room crying. I stood back in the shadows and watched the movie scene playing out.

Al’s legs were not working. He was sitting on the seat of his walker, and through tears I could hear him asking kitchen staff and CNA’s walking by for a push down to his room. His room is a long ways from the dining room considering his legs are in constant pain.

I actually observed staff ignoring his pleas, or saying when they had time. Al was sitting on the seat but it isn’t stable seating. It is the small seat on those portable walkers? Know which ones I am talking about? His tears were breaking my heart and yet the calmness that I had mustered up was again roaring its  head like a lion. I listened and watched for about three more minutes, then I walked up to Al.

I asked him what was going on. Why are you crying? He explains his legs are throbbing and won’t move and he just wants to go back to his room. I asked him if he wanted me to get his wheel chair and he said yes. I went down the hall and got it and brought it back. While I was helping get him into it, no one offered their help. A 240 pound man I was trying to transfer from a portable seat to a stable wheel chair and they all walked by. I asked him, why didn’t you ask someone for help bud? He says through his tears, I did, but no one was helping.

I pushed him back to his room and helped him to lie down. My brain was fuming as I smiled at Al and told him I loved him. I told him I would be back on Thursday and he looked up at me and said good.

I left exhausted. Worn out from the arguing over bills that I have begged in the past two months to be informed of before doing. Worn from watching the scene of no one coming to his help. I am not mean, not at all. I understand the nursing homes as I have worked in them for many years. But, when someone is unstable in a seat you work with that situation immediately, not pass it off to someone else, especially the family member me.

I came home and felt awful. By six pm my body was freezing. I ate my supper but kept getting colder. My sugars were good and so it wasn’t that. The colder I got the more my feet froze.I felt like my soul was being lifted out of a cold body. ALVIN CHRISTMAS 12 I took a rice bag that I heated in the microwave and took it to bed. I placed the heated bag over a towel then on my feet and was laying in flannel sheets. It took some time but I finally started to warm up. By 7:30 I was asleep and never woke up until 7am this morning.

Now I am getting ready to go to a class and need to eat breakfast. I pray that my day and Al’s goes alright. I am not going out there today.

I Asked, And He Answered

Today was the day that I went and picked up Al to take him to our favorite restaurant. I got

Close up image of Cradle cap

Close up image of Cradle cap (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

there on time, and he was dressed in his coat and hat and all ready to go, but something seemed different.

I thought that the main reason he wanted to go to the nursing home, was different from my reasons, he wanted to socialize. Every time I go there, he is not socializing. I can’t put my finger on it, but something is not the same.

I know, it takes time as you all tell me, and this is an adjustment period, but I saw things today that made me quite upset, and I did say something when I took him back. When we got to the restaurant he could not take his own jacket off, and when I questioned him about simple things he cried and I could tell he was confused or didn’t understand things.

He told me he was getting prunes for his snack, so I simply asked  what else to go along with them, and he said nothing. I asked him if he asked for anything else and he said no. He didn’t know he was supposed to ask.

His fingernails were awful. They were black and I could tell by some colors under his nails, that he has been doing some digging too. Here we were at the restaurant, and I could barely eat, looking at his nails, or I would have been ill.

I asked him about activities he had been doing, and he said therapy. I asked what else, and he said nothing. I asked him if he told anyone that he wanted to be involved with activities, and he said no, he didn’t know what activities there were.

He explained to me that his vision is blurry again, that he can not see. I told him I didn’t know what to think, as we had just picked up brand new glasses for him two weeks ago. He said he didn’t know.

Everything was I don’t know and tears. There was more confusion today than I had ever seen before. I am going to give it up to PD, that this is the reason. I dropped the questions when our food arrived, and we ate. He ate good but could barely got the glass to his mouth, his tremors were so bad. I could see that he is definitely getting weaker in strength.

In the car on the way to the restaurant, his tremors were so bad, it made me dizzy watching him. I am not sure if this is the progression of PD or what. He ate a breaded cheeseburger, fries, a diet cherry cola, and a piece of sugar cream pie, so he has a good appetite!

After we were finished, I searched through the store for snacks for him to take back. I had taken him snacks that were left over from here at home, when he was placed, and he was sure to let me know he was running low. I can’t figure out if he is eating the snacks during the day, or at bedtime, and this is why he is not being offered snacks or what is going on.

He told me that the nurse told him to take his money and buy himself a shelf for the wall. He started crying because he said that the nurse should know he doesn’t have any money. See where his comprehension is coming in? I explained that the nurse thought if she told him that he needed the shelf then he would tell his sister, and she could go get him a shelf, which I did.

After lunch, and getting the shelf, I asked him where else he would like to go, and he said no where, he was ready to go back. I asked him again, saying anywhere you want to go, let’s go, while it is nice outside, but he still said no, so I took him back.

Once back he was content to sit in his recliner. I  had brought him some goodies so he and I opened them. He could not open anything by himself, his fingers were too weak, so I opened and he watched. I had gotten him something that he had wanted so bad, the merry-go-round that you see at Christmas time. It plays music and lights up. I just knew he was going to be so excited, but all I got was a half-smile.

After we opened everything and I discarded the empty boxes, I placed things within his hand’s reach, and told him I was going to go speak to the nurse. He didn’t say anything, so I went out of his room for a bit. I found his nurse, and for the second time, I explained about the filthy nails, and that they needed to be cleaned every single day, and hopefully this time, I said it plain enough. I explained to her about his cradle cap all over his face and in his hair again. I explained  when I brought him in there, about the terrible cradle cap due from the PD and that his head needed to be oiled each day and lotion needed to be applied to his face each day. I said all the work I had done is now gone, because it is all back.

I explained with a smile, that I was not trying to be a pain in the butt, but, if they didn’t do as I requested, his face was going to be a mess and he was going to start digging and scratching like he did at home and he would be a bloody mess.

She listened and she made notes, so hopefully this will be taken care of. I explained for the second time that Al won’t ask for anything, and then showed her the list of things that he wished for, and she said he needs to speak up. I said that I agreed with her, but he will not speak up. He is mentally challenged, and doesn’t get the picture, ask and receive. Once again, more notes. Hopefully through time, this will all be taken care of. I just don’t want him to suffer for things that a minute can fix.

Al is a complicated person. He has trouble with comprehension, and understanding, but in other ways he is very brilliant. He is crafty in some ways, and very innocent in other ways. He made the mistake of letting me know that he had money in his wallet. I asked him how did he get money?

He explained he goes down to the little lady at the front desk and tells her he wants money so he can buy a soda or snack, but then he doesn’t buy it, he clings to his money. So he had done this each day and now had a nice little pile in his wallet.

I explained to him for the third time that he can not carry money, that something could happen to it, and if it did, the facility will not make it reappear in his wallet. I am sorry, but inside, I was laughing a little, because he just amazes me at how he thought up this idea to have money once again. On the other hand, I feel bad for him, because he has carried money all through his adult life, and now the facility says no, you may not.

I told the nurse what had happened, and they walked him down to the front desk lady and had him put the money back into his account. He got upset with them instead of me this time, which was a nice change, so I don’t know what his next creative idea will be.

It was a good day, and I may seem a little picky, but I keep my ears and eyes open, and I do ask questions, because Al is going to answer me much better than any staff volunteering answers.

Now, I am home and have taken Polly outside, then brought her inside, and she peed again on the carpet. It stresses me out, I am sorry. My mind is not healed from all of the daily issues from Al, and here, I have a pup, who is the cutest thing, but I am too stressed yet to enjoy her. Walking on my feet and on my heels, whimpering if she doesn’t get held every second is driving me up the wall. I love her, but for heaven’s sake, give me some breathing space! Part of me just wants to sleep and drown out everything around me that I think of all the time.

Something has to give, but I am not sure what it is. Thanksgiving is next week, and although it looks like it is going to be a small dinner gathering, I have not even went to the store yet. I just don’t want to. I have to change my train of thought!



The Unexpected Visit

Silverways Nursing Home This modern building w...

Silverways Nursing Home This modern building was purpose-built as a nursing home, and accommodates 68 people. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I walked into the facility, stopping at the secretary’s desk and announced my presence. Sitting behind the desk, was a young girl, with a short bob hair cut, low cleavage blouse, and bright red nails. She was talking on her cell phone, and glanced up at me, and told her other half of the conversation, she had to get off of the phone, that she would call them back. She laid her phone down, ran her fingers through her hair, and chewing her gum, she led me to the D.O.N.’s office. When I walked in the door way of the Director’s office, she also was on the phone. I could tell from the bits of conversation I was hearing, that she was talking with someone who wasn’t happy. I motioned to her that I would step outside the door until she was prepared to take the time to speak to me. She kept on talking, and smiled. Out in the hall, I looked around at the furniture. It looked new. It didn’t look like it had been sat in much. There were artificial bouquets of flowers sitting on each of the table. My head turned because I was hearing loud noises coming from the residents. Someone wasn’t happy right now. The smell of urine was drifting in and out of my nose. It was pungent. I saw a maintenance man, running a machine to keep the floors shiny. I turned back to my notebook, and jotted some notes down. The Director came out to me, and shook my hand and told me her name. I noticed there was no name tag on her dress. She was an older lady, dressed in a flowery print dress, that came to her knees. She had black dress shoes on, and her hair was short and in a hair net. She saw me looking at her hair, and she let me know that the kitchen staff was short, so she was filling in . She reached up and took it off and threw it away. I made another note in my notepad. She asked how she could help me and I told her who I was. I saw her eyes open a little wider, and she almost choked on her own spit. She straightened her dress, and proceeded to sit back down and start her perfectly, rehearsed set of questions, for people such as me. She excused herself a moment, and made a couple of quick phone calls to other extensions in the facility. After hanging up she plastered her biggest smile on her face and looked at  me and told me she was delighted to meet me, and she would do anything that was required in order to help. We got up and started to walk the halls. Stopping at other offices, nurse stations, and food department, making small talk and introductions. He jotted down notes as they went about their tour. The tour almost done, they made their way down through each of the three halls. He saw no one in sight. He jotted this down. The D.O.N. noticed him writing and hurriedly explained that it was mid morning, and so many residents were getting their baths right now. That is where the aides were at. This is why the halls seemed quiet. He walked into no particular room, standing in the door way, examining everything, leaving nothing out to the naked eye. In one room he witnessed an elderly lady asleep in her wheel chair, her one leg was showing, lack of being covered up. Another room, he saw a tiny little frame in the bed. He walked over and looked down at her. She had vomited up her breakfast, and she was lying in it. He glanced down at his watch , and notated in his book, time, 10:50AM. Another room, there was no one in it. Walking down the opposite hall, two aides were kneeling on the floor, trying to help a man stand up. He had fallen. Another notation. No nurse around. Nurse light was not on. He turned and looked directly at the D.O.N. and she flashed him her pearly whites, and ran her fingers through her hair. The last stop was in the kitchen.  He found the main chef, checking the food in the oven for doneness. Two kitchen aides were putting napkins, and glasses, and wrapped silver ware on the dining room tables. The back screen door to the kitchen was open. He popped his head through and saw a few employees smoking, and as he was observing the grounds, he could over hear talk of a personal nature and even some swearing. He stepped back inside, and jotted some more notes. Walking back to the D.O.N’s office, they stopped at her door. She told him that it was a pleasure to meet him, and if there was anything she could do for him, just give her a call. He told her he she could expect a phone call prior to another visit the following week. As he walked by the secretary’s office, he saw that she was talking on her cell again. He walked out the door and to his car.