Dear readers, all nine of you, sometimes life hands you lemons and although you want to make lemonade, you just can't muster the energy to do. My last job was so horrible that at last week's training to be a peer support specialist, my new aquaintance, who by the way wears dark glasses so you can never see his eyes, asked me to tell him to write about the worst job I have ever had. I wrote out two pages about my last job. It was a horrifying experience to write it out on paper.
I was hired last summer by a local social service agency to be a caregiver. I actually liked my job. I like it because I naturally like caring for people. What the agency did not tell me, is that the client they placed me with had gone through about twenty-four caregivers in the last year due to her deteriorating mental health. Now, you would think the intake sheet indicating she had been married four times would have been warning enough, but being the wounded healer type my therapist informs me I am, I took this to mean she just had not met the right man. Her fourth husband reportedly shot his head off in front of her one night shortly after she qualified for his social security benefits. The law says you must be married for ten years to qualify for those benefits. I am not going to speculate that making it to the ten year mark was paramount in his decision, nor conclude that she may have actually shot him, because that will just result in an increase in my medication dosage, which seems to be increasing daily.
My client was fairly violent verbally. "You better not make me mad," she said. "You don't want to see me mad," she repeated. She told me about her four children and how they would bury objects that she hit them with in the back yard so she'd have to find more objects to beat them with. I just kept ignoring her and making her lunch and stuff. At one point I even got down on my hands and knees and cleaned her filthy carpet with a sponge. It was filthy because she had had an accident in her Depends. She wore them constantly and mostly, from what I could ascertain, because she was too lazy to get up from her chair to use the bathroom. She didn't want to miss a second of her soap operas.
It was about the time I inquired about the locked box by the side of her chair that things really went downhill. I wondered why she had a locked square box. I was actually stupid enough to ask. "It's just papers, dear," she said. While she was in the bathroom, I found out those papers consisted of a heavy single metal object that slide side to side. I quickly put the said object down. I then asked her where the key to the box was. She said it was around her neck at all times. "It's money," she said, "I have to hide money from the state or they will disqualify me for services. Don't say nothin' to anyone." I said I wouldn't. But damn, that was the heaviest metal object money I had ever encountered. The next day the heavy metal object had been relocated. I could not find it anywhere.
Then came time to fill her medisets. I could not do this task per my state mandated training course which said only nurses or nurse delegates or family members can fill the medisets. So I refused to fill them. She began a course of abuse that lasted until the last day of my employment. It culminated with her throwing her bath water and the table the bath water was on into the television set. I cleaned up the spilled water, replaced it, and gave her a sponge bath. She never bathed claiming she was afraid of drowning although she later said she had a history of participating in water aerobics. This puzzled me. When she asked me to go get her mail downstairs, I took all of my belongings with me because she had been shredding my state mandated paperwork which consisted of writing skin condition reports. She said I was saying nasty things about her on those papers. I finally just let her read the papers in an attempt to get her to stop shredding them because I was tired of rewriting them. I wan't writing anything nasty, just reporting the condtion of her skin.
When I returned from getting the mail, she raged at me about taking my belongings with me to get the mail. What she did not know, is that I had alerted building security and the building social worker that I was pretty scared. I said I did not know where the heavy object in her locked box had been moved to. The social worker had contacted the crisis team in the meantime and when they came knocking on the door to evacuate me, my client was screaming at the top of her lungs. "Who is at my door? Who is at my door?" The social worker said to get out of the apartment immediately as I was in immediate danger. I was told to not even go back in for my purse or anything. Well, I did bravely dive back into the apartment for my purse.
Then, when I reached the first floor and the safety of the social worker's office, I began to hyperventilate. When my supervisor finally arrived, she didn't even ask me if I was okay. She said I had generated a lot of paperwork for the agency and had not followed protocol. I asked her what that protocol is. I later read their entire manual on protocol and there is nothing in it about what to do when one's personal safety is in question. There is only information about client safety from us, the lowly paid workers. And I must say that most of the workers for this agency don't even speak English so how the heck would any of them even know what their rights are anyway?
I continue to seek treatment for the trauma this has caused me personally. It has just brought to surface a whole lot of issues for me. I take Klonopin now. I started out at 1mg per dose, but am now down to .5mg per dose because the 1mg. dose made me sleep for about twelve straight hours. My ageny fired me of course for not following their non-existent protocol. Oh, and I had to have them sign paperwork for my health insurance indicating I have MS. So they fired me forty-eight hours after that. And also the night after I was appointed to the city's disabilities commission. I am certain this is all just a coincidence?
The main thing is they still have the client on their caseload so they still get state money to care for her. And so I imagine that daily workers go in, figure out the situation is insane, and never go back. So dozens of caregivers go in and out of this apartment. And one day she might shoot one of them. But hopefully in the ankle or something rather than a life-threatening shot. That way the worker will get some time off, a worker's compensation payout, and perhaps some retraining in a better paying job due to the ankle injury. Then we the taxpayers will all have to pay to have the client institutionalized which is where she belongs anwyay.
A laid of mental health worker for the county, by the way, informed me that this client has a decades long history of suicidal and homicidal ideation with the community. That's just super. And her Depends are paid for by the taxpayers as well. As well as all her medical and all the crisis teams calls she makes daily because she says her life is so awful. And all her psychiatric hospitalizations. Still, it must be cheaper to keep her in her apartment versus placing her in a therapeutic environment? She had been out of heart medications for months, by the way due to previous caregive negligence? Family negligence? Or did someone want her heart to fail? Novel to come shortly. It will be a murder mystery involving her Cherokee Indian heritage, the Great Depression, how to pilfer the system your entire life and how co-signing on loans for your drug addicted daughter who never pays them back actually works for Wells Fargo Bank but not so much for all of us who have to bail the banks out for making these loans. -Alison Whiteman