In the middle of ordinary things

The facility gets busy right before breakfast. Around 7:30 a.m., aides begin to rouse residents who can easily get to the dining room on their own. But, usually, residents are already moving that way before then.

My sister, Janice, visited a few weeks ago for my birthday. I realized I hadn’t seen her in a while and that I am more anxious before an outing since I get out less. I hoped my new power chair would run OK, and I hoped I would not collide with anything that day.

I had already taken my morning meds and was in the hallway by my room waiting for an aide to help me finish my morning care. I was trying to relax. I watched my nurse go up and down the hall to give medicine to the few residents she missed outside the dining room.

My nurse walked past me and into the room just past mine. She called, "Cindy*!" I heard no response. Cindy had only been a resident here for a few months. She had a bad cough, was short of breath, smoked and no doubt had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or congestive heart failure. She also used oxygen. My nurse said Cindy's name a couple of more times. Then I heard my nurse's voice rise a few decibels in alarm.

My nurse came to the door and said she needed help. Thankfully, one aide was close by. The aide and my nurse went back in the room. Shortly after, several aides followed along with the nurse manager and two other nurses. They quietly went in the room and closed the door. At some point, the door was open and I heard them say, "She's gone."

My nurse said Cindy told her aide an hour earlier she was not coming to breakfast.

As I sat there silently waiting, I felt a little selfish. I wanted to go out, but I felt uncomfortable being concerned with that. My aide came soon after and took me in my room and finished my morning routine.

Since my aide also took care of Cindy, I told her I was sorry about Cindy's passing. I found myself apologizing because I needed to get ready rather quickly, but my aide said it was OK. Another aide stopped in to tell my aide that she and a co-worker would assist with Cindy.

My sister arrived, and we got some things from my room then left. I teared up a couple of times during the day thinking of Cindy. Though I did not really know her, I knew she was not well and was frequently uncomfortable.

I told my sister despite the fact I have lived in nursing homes for more than 20 years, and though resident deaths do occur from time to time, I have never quite gotten used to them.

*Name has been changed

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