The HIPPA regulations mandate tearing out the fingernails of any health care worker who breaks confidentiality. So let me not be guilty of that crime.

Purely as a hypothetical situation, a nurse might have encountered a patient whose bad choices and bad luck had put him flat on his back in a nursing home. Whose large checkbook ensured the bed would be comfortable.

A very heavy man who talked his way out of the physical therapy sessions intended to give him back some mobility. A man who was dependent in every way, to turn in bed, to relieve himself, to stay clean, to be fed.

Hypothetically, a nurse observing a patient who demanded to be spoon-fed but who was able to hold a newspaper might suspect something other than physical inability. A nurse observing that other patients on the floor were trying with all their strength to keep their independence might be tempted to pass judgment, but that’s not what she’s paid for. She’s basically paid to keep her shift disaster-free, and she does her best.

What threw the hypothetical nurse off her game was the way the patient used his remaining power. He dished out verbal abuse to the nurses aides, with a precision and cruelty that made the nurse think he must have been very experienced at this sort of thing. If the nurse was confronted by a nurses aide– a black women, visibly angry, closed down, not going to talk about it– the nurse would change the assignment so this aide would not take care of that patient again.

It was all the nurse could do. She had eight chaotic hours and putting out fires took all of the shift. The hypothetical patient must have had some clout, because the toll he took on the staff was tolerated by management. Health care workers have a high turnover. We’re a dime a dozen, you know.

Hypothetically, the patient had a setback, and went to the hospital, and had a close encounter with the Reaper. He was really nice when he got back. He apologized for his verbal abuse of the women who were keeping him clean and fed. He was acting pretty normal for a couple of weeks before he lapsed back into his old ways. He may be still tormenting staff somewhere, for all the hypothetical nurse knows, or he may be sipping tea with Tammy Faye in a condo in the Four Gated City.

‘The Elderly’ are not like you and me, they’re older.

Actually, most people who survive a long time wear off their rough edges and acquire some wisdom, or at least get cute and harmless. But some just get meaner than skunks, with experience in techniques of acting out. It’s not the norm, but you encounter them sooner or later.

I don’t wish physical illness and disability on anyone. For the nice people it’s awful and tragic. For the mean people– they just become an awful mess to clean up. So basically, I want everyone to stay as well as they can.

Get well soon, Rush Limbaugh.

MORE: Joan Walsh at Salon is way more graceful and charitable than me and also wishes Rush a quick recovery in the New Year. And when he’s back let’s have at him.

One thought on “Hypothetically

  1. Brava yet again, Nancy! Your humor and humanity shine through this wonderful wit of yours. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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