The Help

hospital staff

Otis Historical Archives

“Do you know where Dorothy is?” she asked me. The Woman was a petite brunette, about 5’3”, tanned, gold jewelry bedecking her neck and wrists.

“I think she’s with one of the residents,” I said. Mom and I were taking our usual “spins” (Mom’s term) around the floor.

“My mom needs her medicine, and I need to find her,” she said.

“I’ll let you know if I see her. Did you speak with the doctor?” I said, pointing to the doctor who periodically does paperwork at the nurse’s station.

“No, forget him, he’s no help,” she said.

Lucy shuffled up to the Woman. “Do you know how to get to the downstairs elevator?” she said.

“I’m not one of the staff,” she said, seemingly mortified. Then she stomped off to her mother’s room.

Lucy is a resident at the Actors Home. She is rail-thin with salt and pepper kinky hair cinched into a tight pony tail. She asks everyone, repeatedly throughout the day, where the downstairs elevator is.

I tell her, “I don’t know where it is. I only take the upstairs elevator.”

I don’t believe there even is a downstairs one, and Lucy’s not allowed to take the elevator unless escorted by a nurse or an aide. The elevator can only be accessed with a key fob.

Dorothy appeared.

“Hi, Erica, good to see you. Hi, Katherine,” she said.

“Good to see you too. A woman was looking for you. She said her mom needs her medicine.”

The Woman came out of her mother’s room.

“There you are. I can never find any of you people. Mom needs her medicine,” she said.

“Okay, give me a minute,” Dorothy said and went to attend to another resident. It was 4 o’clock, and she had just started her shift.

The Woman said to me, “I can’t believe it, how rude and disrespectful she is,” and huffed off.

I heard The Woman in her mother’s room continuing, “They disrespect me. Nobody listens in this place—nurses, aides, all the same. How dare she speak to me like that!”

Her voice was rising in pitch and agitation. I can’t imagine it’s good for her mother to listen to her rantings, especially since she has dementia. I doubt she understands what her daughter is saying.

“She seems upset,” I said to Mom, and we continued our spin.

Dorothy returned to the nurse’s station. “What’s wrong with her?” I said.

“I don’t know. I think she needs the meds, not her mom.” We exchanged a smile.

Dorothy walked into the room, and The Woman said,” You say ‘okay’ and just walk away from me? I’m tired of being disrespected. Every time I come here, I get treated like this. It is unacceptable.”

I heard Dorothy trying to calm her down.

“Somebody’s upset,” my mom said.

“It seems so.”

By the way, the nursing home where my mother resides is one of the best, if not the best in the country. I have found the nurses and aides to be uniformly exceptional—caring, hard-working, and attentive to the residents.

So what was The Woman’s problem? She acted as if Dorothy was part of her personal “staff.” Perhaps she fancies herself a Kardashian or a person of great import who feels entitled to dump on “the help.” I would have liked to see Dorothy put her in her place, but I guess that wouldn’t be following protocol. What BS.

I have used pseudonyms for the staff and residents.