There is a five point strategy when you are working with a big mentally ill person. One staff at each extremity and the fifth gives the shot that hopefully will calm them down. I have been one of these team members many times in my life and it is a position of power. When faced with irrational behavior something has to be done and team work accomplishes the impossible.
People caught inside their damaged bodies stare out at me with rage and hatred but as staff in a place that works with these people you cannot take it personally. It is hard to endure the insults and the wrath of someone who thinks you are the enemy when you are just changing their clothes or trying to feed them.
Alzheimer disease is devastating but there are many other forms of mental illness that are also difficult to manage. I think it is interesting that some people fight and others just get pleasantly befuddled. Will I go gentle into that good night? I hope so but I think I might lash out if I was unsure about what is going on. I'm hoping that my experience with drugs has prepared me for alternate realities and that I can just enjoy my hallucinations.
I pity the poor staff who will have to care for me if I am indisposed. I am a big strong lady and smart. I will wait till they get close to me and then grab a chair and brandish it as a weapon. I will yell. I know lots of obcenities. I know how to wiggle out of a tough situation and I can run fast around corners. The calm of the ward will be shattered if I go over the edge.
Or perhaps I will be a smiler. My inner peace will radiate out to all who come to sit beside me and in spite of not making any sense I will be at ease with anything that needs to be done. I once had to take a fiesty woman to the dentist and she threw up all over the place. I thought it was kind of funny that the staff was not prepared to deal with a crazy person. They were trying to treat her as normal and they paid the price. They didn't know about the five point team system.
This Halloween season I am remembering the grip of many a mentally ill person's hand on my arm. My first encounter was when I was a candy striper at the hospital and they told me to hold this old lady's arm so she wouldn't tear the IV out. They left me alone with her and the needle slipped as she tried to pinch me and get away. The whole time she screamed vile things to my young ears. A big puffy mound appeared on her arm as the needle went into her flesh instead of her vein. Finally someone poked their head in the door and I pleaded with them to take over and got out of there. It is a wonder that I went into that kind of work later in life. I guess I learned that nothing really fazes me.
It is physically demanding work to endure the abuses from mentally ill people in an institutional setting and even in a home setting. The basic needs of cleanliness and order have to be met. We do not need to put people in attics and hide them away anymore. We have wonderful chemicals that restore order to a shattered brain with just a shot or a pill. People die in chemical stupors now all clean and tied to their beds. Their eyes are full of fear.
That is where my real job begins as a social director. I am able to subdue people but I am also able to entertain them and bring them back to a smile. With music, social activities and fun I have seen miracles work to calm a frantic patient and bring light out of darkness. It might be something as simple as a nice bowl of soup in a clean dining room or a birthday party romp thru the nursing home. I like to bring joy to people who have a hard time. I do it with jokes and touch. Sometimes that touch makes the person mad. How dare I invade their space? But then they smile when they feel there is no threat and they even say..."Thank you. I know I need a little help."