Friday, October 23, 2015

Thoroughly Mean-spirited Millie.

Originally written months ago, this is part of the Abby and Ann Series.

A few years back, Jacques and Vera asked me to watch their neighbor, sixty-one-year-old Millie, until she could get placed into her assisted living facility. She had been in a rehabilitation center after a mild stroke and reassured the nursing staff she had someone to care for her. Little did I know that person was me. I was to be the bridge between rehab and the old-folks’ home.

The day that I started work was they day she arrived home. I was searing in ninety-something degree heat at the end of April, ringing Millie's doorbell, when her daughter drove up the lane. After a struggle, my new "friend" got into her home and into bed. Millie’s insurance didn’t pay for twenty-four hour nursing care. Let me tell you, she needed it.

I stayed with Millie the first night, but reminded her I had to get up bright and early for my job. She gave me a mean look, but I figured it was the meds.

That afternoon, I checked in on her. Nobody had been by and the nurse was running late. I am not trained in the medical field, yet Millie wanted me to put all her pills in their little Sunday through Saturday compartments in two huge boxes. I counted. There were twelve prescriptions. One was OxyContin, because, Millie had taken a fall during the stroke, fell down a rocky hill next to her house, slammed into a fire hydrant at the corner and then was run over by a golf cart. Her neighbor was driving the cart when he changed course to avoid running over Millie. Instead he struck her in the lower back. So the major issue wasn’t the stroke, it was her back that was messed up.

I told Millie I couldn’t manage her prescriptions. Thankfully the nurse showed up that evening just as I was leaving. The next morning, before I went to work, I checked on Millie. The pills were all sorted out. I made Millie her breakfast and went to work. She asked if I could give her a bath. I looked the situation over and realized I could never get all two-hundred plus pounds of her into the tub. She suggested I give her a sponge bath. I told her I’d never given an adult a sponge bath. No problem she insisted. Her guest bedroom was an ensuite with a shower. I looked at it and the shower had no barrier. I told her I would give it a try, but wasn’t the nurse supposed to do that? Again, she gave me a funny look and said, “That’s your job.”

I try to be kind and I’m told that I am tender-hearted, so I figured I would help her. We came to an agreement. I offered to sit with Millie while she bathed herself. That afternoon, I knocked on the door and let myself in. Millie told me where I could find a sturdy, white plastic chair for her to sit on during bathing. I put it in the shower, got her towels, wash rag, shampoo and soap ready. She requested I get the water to a comfortable temperature. I did, and then rested the shower hose onto the seat. She got her wheelchair to the shower and then I was supposed to help her into it. We struggled together and that’s when the hose swung away from the chair and gave us both a shower. She slipped (gently, for a woman of her size) to the floor. She sat there and bathed herself. As I stood outside the shower doors, she asked me questions like how long had I lived in the desert, what my children did for work and so on. This continued for a while until I asked her about her kids. She said it was none of my damn business and to stop being so nosey. I helped her towel off and luckily her daughter came by to help get her into bed.

A few days later, after another shower, Millie was leaning over me, gripping the shower rails. I’d just toweled her off. She wanted me to check the bed-sores on her bottom. Then Millie wanted me to pull her adult briefs onto her enormous body. Since she was incontinent and the shower was narrow, I had to get creative. She slipped and nearly fell on my back. After that, I told her she would have to let the nurse check on her sores and dress her. “I need help NOW and that damn nurse only checks in once a week for five damn minutes!”

Many days she would call me names and I chalked it up to loneliness or the medication. Some evenings Millie would have me take her on long walks, in the lingering heat, insisting that she was chilly. Then when she would reach the park, Millie would refuse to go home. I would call her daughter, but only got a laugh-out-loud text back. . .sometimes. . . if I was lucky. I’d remind Millie that I had a family to get home to and a job; Jacques, Vera and Sharleen were wondering why I wasn’t spending as much time with them. I hardly saw my family. I was falling asleep at work. I finally flat out refused to take her anywhere. She would get mad and yell at me. As always when I refused to help her place her pills from their bottles into their pill boxes she would curse me. I reminded her that a nurse would be by in a day or two to straighten them out. Then Millie would throw containers all across the room, scattering tablets and capsules. I’d hope and pray that there would not be a home invasion. We’d both be murdered for the OxyContin and other pills. Their street value could put a kid through college. . . or pay someone’s bail.

This went on for a couple weeks.

One evening, Millie offered to give me a tip and I declined. She insisted and her daughter handed me fifty dollars. The daughter only came by once a week and usually I was busy washing Millie or making her something to eat. I took the opportunity to ask Millie’s daughter when the big move was. (Nothing had been packed yet.) She said, “Oh, my mother is saving a ton having you come by every day.”

Millie chimed in, “Liesa is mine, I’m going to keep her!”

“You do realize I am going back to Michigan at the end of June, right?”

Millie’s daughter turned away to make a call in another room and Millie gave me dirty looks. “I want you to stay. I need you! You are a horrible person, leaving an old woman by herself all day!” At first I thought she was yelling at her thirty-nine-year-old baby girl, but then realized she was mad at me!

I’d had enough and as I was about to leave, a man showed up. He spoke to Millie and her daughter. He asked me who I was, and how I’d gotten this job. I explained that I was a friend of Jacques and Vera up the street; he knew them. I explained that I was doing this as a favor to them until his mother was put into a facility. I’d kept notes for the future nursing staff.

This man, her son I discovered, read my notes, spoke first to his sister, then Jacques and Vera who'd walked down a couple houses to Millie’s to check on the situation. He handed me a check for fifteen hundred dollars. The next week Millie was in a facility with her husband whom I never even knew existed.

I had enough money for gas to drive cross country, the ability to stay in a hotel along the way instead of sleeping in rest stops and cash left over for a couple massages. (OH! My aching back!)
. . .and I vowed to never be taken advantage of again.

Abby and Ann, Millie really had me convinced that I was some sort of ogre by not staying with her every night. Did I do the right thing in letting this go on for so long? Am I really uncaring of the elderly population? Should I have kept taking her outside in her wheelchair? She needed the fresh air. Why did I feel so good when handed all that money? What would you have done?


Names have been changed. Shared with permission, by Millie’s son. He’s a fitness coach and says, if anything, maybe this will encourage people, especially seniors, to eat healthy and lose weight. It’s more difficult for care givers to manage large patients who likewise have shorter life-spans.

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