Diary of a PSW: Robert’s Grief (Brenda Bondy-Caldicott)

Today seems like it will never end. It’s sweltering in here, and the urine smell isn’t making me feel well at all, at this retirement home job. Today, of all days, I’ve been suffering from insomnia, worrying about the lack of pay. Will I have enough to buy the groceries I need? It’s Thanksgiving soon, after all. With five jobs, two should meet the basic needs, but they barely do. That’s how the fourth, and the fifth job happened about.

I’m with the patient. Robert has remembered his parents are passed on. He has delayed grief reactions out of the blue. We believe his POW tells him this, to orientate him to time and place. However, it leaves us in a tough spot. There’s no mental health nurse to address his utter grief. We walk down the hall only to find Robert inconsolable. We complete his care and spend extra time with him, reassuring him we are still here. His family is where he lives now, and his parents had passed on some 15 years prior. Robert is 60 years old at this time, but acts like he’s 8. He wants his mother and father. We suspect this frustration is caused by mental health issues, as well as dementia from his disease’s progression.

Then, onto Sadie’s room. She’s 65 and has Schizophrenia. I’m thinking to myself, I wish I had my Mental Health Practitioner Certification done, but I had to stop in school as I couldn’t afford the 335 dollars every semester. The HS care we provide in this retirement home is personal care; a bath, assistance with dressing. The care plan doesn’t include companionship to validate emotional needs, or mental health concerns.

Sadie is frantic. Stating she’s heard voices speaking in Spanish that were coming to kill her. She’s also certain a man visited her, as three buttons were undone on her pajama top. I explain, sometimes if we’re too warm we do things subconsciously while we sleep. She is inconsolable. We’re considering calling 911 if her state of mind becomes more delusional, for her safety and our own. She states, she will protect herself in her room.

Leesha is a new resident that moved in yesterday, so I don’t know how she is with people. She is 30 years old, and 8 months pregnant. She’s living in this retirement home so she isn’t homeless. She is also a drug addict, and has schizophrenia. She is obsessed with dead children.

I notice a strong smell of urine from her room, like she hasn’t had a bath or changed clothes for a month. She refuses personal care assistance from us. We gently encourage her to use the shower. With the rules set in place if she refuses, we can do nothing but report it to the registered nurse. She has also been smoking in her room. I can see a lot of styrofoam cups with butts in them.

There is a lady right next door with compressed oxygen, so this too has to be reported. If she’s caught again, she will be evicted or put in the mental health unit until the baby is born. Then she will be homeless again.

Tonight we’re short staffed so I bring John his tea and cookies at snack time. He informs us that since his hernia surgery, he’s learned he now has throat cancer. He says it so matter of factly, and is more concerned with how we’ve been, and what’s new with us. The resolve of some people never ceases to amaze me.

The day that I thought would never end is over. I head home physically and emotionally spent, again. I think to myself, is this what they call burnout?


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