In the long, long list of the jobs I’ve been paid for in this life, there was one very long year that I spent as a medical record “technician” in a nursing home in my hometown. It wasn’t a bad job. In fact, it paid fairly well. The staff were absolutely great to work with and some of them became life-long friends. The only issue I had was having to work with old people. The irony is that I didn’t really need to work with residents much at all, but instead mainly just their paperwork. I shuffled around paperwork, records, nurses schedules, doctor’s orders, payrolls like a really good administrative assistant. I ran errands to and from doctor’s offices, pharmacies and was a general gopher. As anyone who works in a nursing home will tell you, even if you never have to lay a hand on a resident, you will be required to interact with them and there isn’t any way to get out of that. I got to know a lot of residents personally and some of them were truly inspirational. Some lived very interesting lives and some were just “boring farm folk”. One thing about the job truly got to me. Often, as soon as I had befriended a resident or helped them in some small way to make their day brighter, I’d come into work the next day to find out that they had died. It broke my heart each and every time and I’d end up in the ladies room crying my eyes out and end up sniffling through my day. It was part of life at work and something that everyone just, sort of, ignored. It was another happening with very little more regard than whether or not Helen had a bowel movement.
I watched several residents sit alone on Sunday afternoons or during visiting hours. No family came to see them, ever. It was those residents that would draw my attention and I would often sit with people who never got visitors, either playing a game or reading a book or just talking. So, you see, we come to my biggest huge fear in life: I fear I will end up alone and forgotten in a nursing home, uncomfortable and unloved. It’s a very real fear and all too realistic. I hope and pray my family, my nieces and nephews, will have kindness in their heart and drop a cheap plastic egg in a basket for me for Easter or pop for a cheesy set of Christmas lights if and when I ever get to that point. Better yet, I hope there’s a bright, ambitious medical records person who is scared of touching residents who is willing to risk spending an hour of their day with me, just for a little talk.