Bizzare story from a nursing home
Written aug. 2000
It was a simple walk on Archer Road, back from the veterans hospital to the nursing home where I worked as the Director of Social Services.
I was proud of being the director of a one-person department in a nursing home considered the worst in our city.
Proud because for the most part of my work I was able to be who I am offering services that would make the lives of the residents, more acceptable.
It was unusual for me to be escorting one of our residents to the V.A. but that’s how synchronistic things happen.
The 74 year-old man, whose brother placed him in the nursing home, didn’t want to be there. No way. The man believed he was thinking clearly, but clearly, he was not. He was actually a nice guy but had been living in a house with no electricity and no running water. I don’t judge a person if they’re able to manage that way. There were many homeless people living in the woods without those customary amenities and no one is putting them in nursing homes, but all reports were this elder was neglecting himself. The V.A. had tried to help him out many times by putting him in one care giving facility or another, but somehow he always managed to get himself out and get back home.
His brother brought him to the nursing home where I worked from a near by city. The first day he came was a bit odd. His brother brought him to us with a car trunk filled with piled up clothes and blankets, including a box in the back seat with washed clothes, but not dried. When the new resident came into my office his first words were, “I don’t want to be living with my brother.” His brother had already told me, “I had my fill of that brother of mine. He’s lived with me off and on; now I’m done with him. This is the last time he will ever live with me. You got him. I hope you can manage him.”
The brother helped admit him into the nursing home, but as soon as all the papers were filled out, the brother took off quickly, leaving us with all of the clothes he brought.
I told the Reverend, yes, the new resident was a Reverend, we had no room for all clothes he came with, but he insisted he needed them. I did get the laundry staff to rewash the ones that were wet, then dry and bring them to Rev’s room. The patient liked it when I began to call him Rev.
Rev. had almost five hundred dollars in his pocket, which in a nursing home is unheard of especially when an elder with dementia comes into any facility. I persuaded Frank, (I’ll give this resident a name) to give it to the bookkeeper, since nursing homes are not the safest place to carry around large amounts of money or even small amounts. Rev. reluctantly agreed, but the next day he withdrew the money. In the few days he was with us we went through this same routine. Three times I re-persuaded him to give the money to the bookkeeper.
“Rev when you’re ready to leave you’ll get your money.”
“I’m ready to leave today.”
“Where you going to go, Reverend?”
“I’ll find someplace.”
“Give the money to Jennie again. She’s the bookkeeper and she’ll put it in the safe.”
The Rev. and I had a couple of friendly talks on the front porch. He told me he wasn’t a smoker, being a minister and a Christian. But as we talked he was smoking a cigar and than later lit a cigarette. What could I say to an elder who was a bit absentminded, with a touch of dementia. Personally I was enjoying him, until one female resident came to me, trembling a bit, and told me, “That new man, calls himself a Reverend. Reverend my ass, “He took his thing out and started swinging in around. Then he invited me to his room.”
I had my talk with him about what the women told me, actually more than one women told me similar stories, but the Rev. had his denial story ready.
Within a few days after his admission he began going out the front door with his bags all packed. One day he called a cab to take him, to where? Non one knew. One of the staff came running to my office to tell me there was cab waiting for him
When I asked him, “Where you going, Rev.?
“I don’t know, but I don’t want to stay here.”
“But you called a cab.”
“Yes, I want to go to my home. I want to stay with my family. There’s work to do out there. I can’t be staying here.”
But he wasn’t sure who he was going to stay with, and didn’t have a phone number of any one I could call to make sure some one was going to see after him. He never got angry when somehow I managed to change his mind about what he thought he wanted to do. Each time I did this he would come back inside the nursing home and would continue to talk about wanting to leave.
Late in the afternoon the same day he called for the cab, some one came and told me they saw him carrying two sacks of clothes. He was already down the road a ways. I figured we had reached the point where there wasn’t going to be any stopping him. I had already called the V.A. and was told if he persists to bring him there and they would deal with him as they had numerous times. One of the aids in the nursing home agreed to use her car to find the Rev. We picked him up on the next block and drove him to the V.A. Thankfully, the emergency room admitted Rev. with less fuss than any E.R. admission I had ever experienced. The V.A. knew him well and was accustomed to re-admitting vets who are demented or toxic from alcohol, drugs and chemicals from one war or the other.
When the aide who drove me was ready to leave I told the aid I would walk back to the nursing home. She along with others in the E.R. reflexively said, “You’re going to walk from the V.A., to the nursing home?”
“Well, it’s only half mile or so.”
“But it’s over 90 degrees out there.”
“It’s a walk I enjoy,” as the aide and others shook their heads, questioning my stability, as I walked off.
Yes, it was hot, in the mid 90s. Maybe there was something odd about me not taking the ride from the aide to the nursing home, but I very much enjoyed walking. Actually being out of the nursing home for another 30 minutes was no loss for anyone.
About half way back to the nursing home on this well- traveled urban road, right there on the sidewalk where I was walking was a vine hanging. It kind of looked like a vine you might see in a jungle or some other natural vine. It was heavy. But it wasn’t supposed to be there hanging down from a tree right on a busy street. Seeing this stopped me short; totally surprised. It had my attention. I looked around to see if anyone else was near by, needing confirmation for what was in front of me, but there was no one else walking on the streets in mid-day with the temperature so high. I walked around the vine a few times checking it out, then looked up to see where it came from; shocked to see a platform up there in the tree. What the hell, but the whole day had been odd with the Rev. I figured something special was happening here, so grabbing hold of the vine and I began climbing up, one hand over the other, my legs wrapped around the vine pulling myself up through a hole in the bottom of this platform. It turned out to be more of an enclosed platform, more like a solidly built tree house. This totally blew my mind; right there on Archer Road.
cont’d next week