Twenty-five years on the job has given me lots to write about.
We once had a resident who was paralyzed on her right side. Her right leg and arm were basically useless.
Maddie sat in a wheelchair with a full leg stirrup but managed to wheel around quite well using her left arm. Very well.
Being confined to a wheelchair did not stop Maddie from trying to escape the building. She was strong and fast!
Why was she trying to escape? She was convinced the cows needed to be milked.
So out the door she went, powering herself up a small grade—which should have been next to impossible for her to do—wheeling 500 yards down to the road, and then crossing a busy highway. Winter or summer, off she went.
At the time, our building was not equipped with coded doors to keep residents with dementia from wandering off. Keeping track of residents was time consuming and frustrating.
Maddie left many, many times each day. The nurses’ station was not close to the front door—her escape route—so she often left without anyone noticing.
When we realized she was missing or a resident would tell us, we had to run quickly. Not just one of us, but sometimes two or three of us would give chase.
Trying to get Maddie turned around was a challenge. One of us would have to hold onto the wheelchair, another would hold her left arm, and another would hold her left leg. She screamed and tried to kick and bite us.
And I don’t blame her. After all, we were stopping her from going to the barn to milk the cows.
Today, long term care homes have many more residents like Maddie. But, thankfully, they have coded doors to keep residents safe. We simply don’t have time anymore to run after wandering residents.
Louise Deboer-Jakos is a healthcare aid employed by Shalom Manor in Grimsby. She is vice president of Niagara Health Care and Service Workers Union, Local 302, and a member of CLAC’s National Board.