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December 1, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Night nurses

What, exactly do night nurses do?

I’ve made myself the night shift “nurse” and sleep in the big bed beside Mom. If she starts thrashing, or crawls out of bed, I usually hear her and get up to help. My only duties are to readjust Mom’s covers, get Mom up to sit on the bedside commode, change the sheets when I didn’t get her up in time, put her back to bed and straighten her out when she gets crossways in the bed. Not exactly onerous duties.

It has been suggested, however, that I hire a night nurse. But what would the expensive new hire do? There is no feeding to be done. No medicating. No bathing. No cleaning. No changing clothes. Just an occasional cover-straightening or asking Mom if she needs to use the commode, a question to which she doesn’t usually respond anyway.

As I see it, the night nurse would sit in the comfy recliner across from the bed and spend the time reading e-mails or tweeting. My question is, do they sleep? Do they doze off while watching their patient? Do they wake up, like I do, when Mom stirs? Or are they really wide awake the whole time? Are they being paid to sit and do nothing for most of their shift? I’m confused!

I admit, I heard horror stories from a friend who was laid up. She griped about the young millennial who was the night nurse. The girl spent most of her time on her cell phone instead of doing things around the house. My friend finally called the agency and complained. I never heard whether she got someone else, or the girl quit using her phone and pretended to look busy. But what was there to do in the middle of the night?

Do night nurses get paid less since they do less? Or do they get paid more because it is particularly difficult to find someone to work the night shift? At least in a hospital, (where we all know, you can’t ever get any sleep), they are constantly coming in to take vitals or check the bags of fluid or stop the horrendous screeching beep of the IV machine when it runs out. At least they have something to do.

A friend just mentioned that she would feel it was her duty to stay 24-7 in a hospital room with a loved one. Now, that kind of around the clock care is a true nightmare. Not only is the sleeping arrangement in a hospital room uncomfortable (those recliner chairs are horrid and the cots are never dream-inducing), but, as I’ve mentioned above, the interruptions are constant.

And never mind the food. Has anyone ever been in the hospital cafeteria where there was restaurant-style, award-winning cuisine? Okay, probably there is in some of the really expensive hospitals. Or maybe you can have the food brought in from the nearby bistro or five-star restaurant down the street. Better yet, have your own chef cook your food for you. Right! Like that is ever going to happen to us common folk.

But back to the night nurse here at home. Who is willing to work the night shift? Not many people that I know of really want to stay up all night. I’m sure that when a nurse is given a night shift, and has no choice, she will find ways to accommodate to the requirements of the job. Many people do work night shifts and they survive.

But to intentionally stick your head in that nightly noose unless you have to, I think, would be difficult. Young people often think they can do it because they convince themselves they can use the time to study or do other work. They can bring school books with them and study through the night. But what do they do the next day when they have to face staying awake in classes or, heaven forbid, take care of their own kids, or even work another job? Do they get to go home and actually sleep during the daytime?

Okay, after that last paragraph, I just realized that maybe I am sticking my head in that nightly noose. But, no, not really. I do get to sleep while Mom is sleeping. Unlike the expensive caregivers, I can sleep through the shift. Or at least for most of the shift. I may have to wake up on occasion but I don’t have to stay awake. And I am getting really great at going right back to sleep after changing sheets or emptying commodes.

All mothers get used to napping when the baby is napping. And I am certain we would all agree that Mom, at 98, and with her dementia, has reverted to the baby stage. And with blessed Veronica, and temporary family help here during the day, I don’t even have to wait until Mom goes back to sleep. I can slip off to the big house to catch a nap.

But I am going to have to learn to curtail my daily activities. I am too used to being on the run most of the day. Time to cut back on running errands, offering to help with the latest project at the church, presenting programs for the community, or agreeing to take minutes for boards or attend meetings, which I am liable to sleep through anyway.

So, am I going to hire a night nurse? Nope. I’ll learn to sleep in snatches and nap during the day. It’ll work. You’ll see. Believe me!

Elderly Mothers , ,
About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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