Today at work I arrived early, changed my shirt, tied my hair. I ate an apple in the break room before handover at four o’clock. It’s time to go, three of us carers on this shift. In the nurses’ station we get a list and a walkie talkie.
Then we’re off and running. Nurse reminds me not to leave towels in the sluice room. That’s fine – I can definitely not do that. I go up the No.2 Wing, get my bearings for the shift ahead, reminding everyone to come to dinner at five o’clock, pulling curtains and closing doors.
In the dining room I help people to the table and help them sit. The servers come and help supervise the meal. I help to serve, cut food and feed. They have the same plastic cups here that these places always have. There are a few vases of flowers, and a large television on the wall. Some residents are sedated. I take almost three minutes to fix a glass of thickened fluids. It’s one of those things that there must be a better way to do. But meanwhile, it only happens if a good soul behind prepares ahead.
I have my break, drink a Milo, eat a leftover dessert. Then it’s up and down the corridors tending to people and answering call bells. At my old job I used to push a tea trolley but here someone else does the honours. There are paper towels in the bathroom and you are supposed to use 2-3 after washing your hands, according to standard precautions. It eats precious time. Once, I was running twenty minutes late to finish and the RN on duty asked me to stay a few moments more to fill out a competency. It felt good to say no, not unless I’m getting paid for it buddy. We clock in and out with a fingerprint vein scanner. Sometimes it’s down, but mostly it is quicker than paper timesheets. The big manager at our facility sometimes leaves inspirational quotes as messages for us when we clock in. I wish he’d stop. Nothing draws attention more to the fact that you’re having your labour exploited in favour of the profit of others.
I’d like a kaleidoscope for when I’m at work, so I could occasionally look at pretty things. Art-wise, there are a few token local landmarks and some tacky coffee-art in the residents’ main lounge. Pictures of flowers line the halls. Images of poppies are by far the most common. It is a strangely apt and ironic motif, given the narcotic properties of poppies. I often wonder if the people who plan these facilities ever make the connection.
Graham Matrix (pseudonym) is a carer in an aged residential care facility.