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Night shift frolics

August 4, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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Watching night shift aides work has always amazed me. When I first went to live in a nursing home, I spent a lot of time with them. I was lonely, stayed up late and they talked to me. They liked visiting with me because it made night shift more interesting. But after a time, I had to live in the daytime world like everyone else.

Then I only saw night shift aides for brief periods of time. Important times were when I was sick. One night I woke up starving because I had not eaten the day before because of stomach flu. A night shift aide went to the break room, bought Chinese noodles from the machine, prepared them and fed them to me while we had a nice conversation.

Night shift aides can be a bit nutty. They never get enough sleep and stay awake with caffeinated pop and energy pills or drinks. Sometimes they are a bit too wound up and can act rather silly. It is interesting when a "super awake" aide comes to assist me.

In 18 years of nursing home life I have seen a night shift aide lie on a hallway floor. I have heard them pass ice with a great deal of racket. Although I hated the noise, I knew they needed something to brighten up the solemnity of a nursing home at night. Some aides always seemed not to have enough to do. While others, cleaned everything to keep busy and have the time go faster.

The other night must have been a bit slow for night shift, and apparently some joviality was helping them stay awake. I woke at 5 a.m. and put my call light on. Several minutes later Zelda and Daisy (pseudonyms) came in. Zelda is in her early 20s, has blonde hair and wears long hair extensions. I often tease her about them and call her Lady Godiva. That morning she came in with her hair hanging straight down over her face. She had a blank look on her face like Buster Keaton.

Daisy has dark hair that she wears pulled up on top of her head. On each side of her hair that night, one thin blonde hair extension hung with the clip out. She kept running her fingers through the blonde hair strands telling me how long her hair was and smiling widely. Instead of laughing, I was as sober as Zelda. I said, "You must really be having a hard time staying awake tonight!" But neither one offered a response.

When they left, I thought how difficult it must be to keep going on night shift when you are extremely tired.

I can only imagine the look on a drug-fogged resident's face if he or she saw Zelda and Daisy's shenanigans. I bet, for a minute, they thought they were dreaming.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...