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Waiting in the bathroom

July 29, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
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Being quadriplegic and living in nursing homes for more than 17 years have taught me to wait. Since I need assistance with most things I do each day, waiting is necessary. I know an aide is not always available to assist me immediately. But since I am so used to nursing home life, I get concerned when things run late. I also know another resident might require assistance, which prolongs my wait.

Last Sunday, I was put into the bathroom before 7 a.m. Most days an aide comes in to assist me about 20 minutes later. Some days I do wait longer.

Sunday was one of those "later than usual" mornings. I was in the bathroom longer than I had anticipated. After I waited for more than 30 minutes, my nose was running everywhere and I am unable to wipe it. I sniffed to try to keep my nose under control and wondered where my aide was. I thought possibly she called off.

My female suitemates, who share the bathroom with me, were grumbling. The bathroom door was locked and I told them I was in it. They know an aide has to get me out. Nevertheless they were frustrated because they could not use it. As I listened to them I wondered if the architect/builder ever thought female residents would be griping that their quadriplegic neighbor makes the bathroom unavailable at times.

The more the ladies complained, the more uncomfortable I felt. I asked one of them to see if there was an aide in the hallway but she said there was not. I wished I could do something constructive or even get some shut-eye. It is self-defeating for me to feel dependent and useless, but that is how I felt. I wish there were another way to care for me that would allow the bathroom to be available for my suitemates and keep the aides happy.

When my aide finally arrived, she didn’t seem to realize I might be uncomfortable. She is rather new and still getting used to my routine. I could tell from her body language that she was out of sorts. She also said she was not feeling well.

Although I coached her through my routine, she was frustrated. We got through my morning care and later I apologized, saying I hoped I was not short with her. She calmly told me it was not my fault but that something had happened before she got to my room.

It is unfortunate that a nurse or another aide could not have stepped in and allowed my aide a few minutes to breathe. If someone had assisted, both the aide’s and my day would have started off better.

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Kathleen Mears

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