It’s been a week or so, I’m well aware of the time frame of how long ago it was since I last typed in this blog.
My week was pretty interesting. I started work at Woodingford Lodge. Woodingford Lodge is a long-term care facility for the elderly. Kind of appropriate considering my past experience with seniors (HHC, playing the piano for retirement homes), and I wanted to see what it was like to work on the other side of the fence (in my case it would be actually using the products I sold on the people I sold them to).
How did I get this placement? We had interviews with 3 volunteer placements of our choice. I chose Woodingford, the school, and a day-care for seniors. The interviews went really well (as usual since I love one-on-one interviews) and the school and the lodge wanted me, but I had more experience with the elderly, so I was picked to do the lodge. In the end it works out for the better because I’m gunning for a school placement in Montréal and I’ll be able to get the most use out of my French as well as work in a school that’s going to have a lot of people in it.
The first day at the Lodge (I think I’m going to call it that for now on. All of my jobs get short forms. HHC, BR, Cali’s, Shoppers, etc.) began on Monday at 8:30. I re-introduced myself to the supervisor and I was off to the Cherryhill Dining Room. The layout of the Lodge is like a square. One half of the square is Cherryhill, the other side is Oakdale. They are mirrors of each other with a courtyard in the centre of the square.
I entered the Cherryhill dining room and was seated at a table with 4 seniors. One of them was being fed with a spoon like a baby. Two of them were eating their food normally, and a woman was eating her food with her hands. I sat there saying very little, taking it all in with a small smile glued to my face. The PSWs (Personal Social Worker) were busy but made time to talk to me a little bit to make me a bit more comfortable, but I still felt awkward.
My job that day was to shadow a PSW and get the flow of the building and just to get orientated with everything. At 9:30 there was a spa going on, so I helped wheel someone down to the spa so they could get their nails done. For the rest of the morning I helped out a guy who is a physiotherpist aide. I walked around with him and actually got to see products that were in HHC being used on people (wrap weights and resistance bands). This was a great way to introduce myself to most of residents.
I helped clean and serve with lunch, which wasn’t as awkward as breakfast. I still felt out of place and I didn’t know when they were done with their meals or beverages, but at least I wasn’t just sitting there feeling foolish. I learned that it was a resident’s birthday that day. We served carrot cake and sang Happy Birthday.
After lunch was done, there was bingo in the activiation room. I helped get the residents in the room, helped set up their cards, helped them mark their cards, cleared their cards, clairified the numbers that were being called, and helped clean up. There was a girl who came in to call out numbers. She liked to go off on tangents but she mostly kept on track. We played 2 games and everything went well.
For the rest of the day I talked with the residents a little and got to know the staff. Before I even got to know any of the staff, I had a reputation somehow for being able to use a computer. The first question that came out of their mouths “Are you good with computers? Because blah blah blah doesn’t work and I don’t know how to…” I then learned that their system is run on Windows Professional 2000, a really crappy OS for businesses. So I’m expecting to fix quite a few problems in the future.
Tuesday had a more exciting morning with a hymn sing after breakfast. I sat in on it and sang songs. I’ve been singing more recently since I’ve been apart of Katimavik and I love it. The songs ranged from hyms to more contemporary songs. The seniors seemed to enjoy it, even if some of them fell asleep. I’m hoping to perform there soon, maybe next week.
Following the hymn sing there was a craft being done in the activiation room. We made apple center pieces for fall. Basically it was two pieces of felt shaped like apples glued together with a pipe cleaner to make it stand in a vase. It went on until 12. It was a bit painful because the seniors didn’t feel to easy with me just yet (it was only my second day after all) so the craft felt like it was dragging on forever. I spent the rest of my day getting to know a resident better. I felt much better afterwards because it finally felt like I was starting to fit in a little instead of being this kid who is going to be showing up every day cleaning plates and helping people with activities.
Wednesday was an easy but a bit peculiar day. It started at breakfast. I was working in the Oakdale dining room cleaning and serving as usual, and I had a conversation with an elderly woman. The details of the conversation were a bit odd. They involved me settling for a nice young girl, not a beautiful old woman like herself. Needless to say I was quite perplexed (I didn’t say anything about Jeff but I assured her that I was not going to settle down with her or anything) and I forgot about it throughout the day until the physiotherpist aide brought it up with me before lunch. Apparently this woman has a case of dementia where she thinks that any young man that speaks with her (or in my case, is spoken to) is going to marry her and take her away from the home and drain her of all her money. There was one incident where she barricaded her door in fear that a male volunteer was going to do just that (which he had no intention of doing of course). So I learned to avoid that woman at all costs in order to avoid another episode happening.
After learning that tidbit of information, I started to become more aware of the other residents problems and behaviors. There is a woman in Cherryhill who wails like a police siren. I believe there is another woman (or perhaps it is the same one) who wanders up and down the halls and will latch on to you (literally), look at you and just say over and over again, “Die die die die…”. So creepy.
One of my housemates was telling me that at her job she got to look at all of the patient’s files and learn everything about them. I wonder if I will get to do the same thing. I don’t know if I would be interested in doing that because a file is so personal, but I suppose that it is the home’s right to know about the conditions of their patients, so it makes sense. For the rest of the day I sat around and listened to Sean Macdonald sing songs and entertain the folks.
Thursday was uneventful. Friday however, was pretty busy. In the morning I decorated the Lodge in fall-tastic colours, corn stalks and bales of hay. I helped out with lunch and as I was cleaning up there was a delay in the time frame of when everyone could leave because a resident had passed on during lunch. I didn’t know her that well, but it was still sad. It finally hit me when I saw a woman walk by the activation room with flowers as we were playing Euchre. After Euchre, I spent some one-on-one time with a resident for the rest of the day. We talked about Peterborough, the birds, the zoo, and other things that came to mind. She was a really nice lady and a caring soul. I went home that day feeling good that I had started to get to know one of the residents.
Today started out a bit sad. I walked into the Cherryhill dining room as usual and I was taken aside and informed that the resident that I had spent one-on-one time with on Friday had passed away. She passed away in her sleep. It sucks because I was actually starting to get to know her and now I cannot anymore. The rest of the day was fun. We played bingo (I got to call out numbers. Woo!) and sat outside in the front because it was beautiful out.
When I got home from work I called my Aunt who works in Sick Kids in Toronto to learn how to deal with death and palliative care. She told me that the people that are in that care are already in pain and you’re making them more comfortable so that they pass away without as much pain. For example, if a kid gets in a car crash and gets sent to the hospital and they keep him alive, then great. But if in a month they realize that can’t do anything for him and he gets the plug pulled on him, then why did you bring him back to life? Sometimes it’s just better to let them die in order to stop their suffering.
Dying is another journey, not an end.