Sick Days

I’ve been sick almost a week.  Nothing major, but I’ve had to stay home from work.  Completing everyday tasks has felt like swimming through jello, and once I’ve finished them I’ve had to lie down to rest.  My lack of productivity has been incredibly frustrating.  It would be easy to fall into a depression.  And this is from a week of sub-par health.

I think about my residents, dealing day after day and year after year with poor health and the losses associated with it.  I’m always impressed by the effort they, along with their aides, put into getting up and ready for the day, maybe heading to an activity.  But this week, my admiration has been renewed.  This post is for you.  I swam through jello to get it up here.

10 thoughts on “Sick Days”

  1. You are so right. Because there is illness spreading around the nursing home where my mother is located, the residents are confined to their rooms and visitation is discouraged. I had cut back on my visitation to every other day and when I went yesterday, I noticed that my mother had so much nasel congestion and dried mucus in her nose that she couldn't eat because she was using her mouth to breath. She has dementia and talks very little and it didn't occur to the nursing staff to get her something to treat the nasal congestion. I asked the nurse but she was busy so I don't know if anything was ever done. I was at least able to clean out some dried gunk from her nose and tried to encourage her to blow her nose. Unfortunately, she can't or won't blow her nose and only gets temporary breathing relief when she sneezes. She isn't hungry and has been refusing food. The CNA's are not as patient or creative as I would hope for them to be in giving her things to drink and I fear that she is becoming dehydrated. I don't think they fully realize how important it is to make sure the residents get fluids when they are sick. I will be visiting every day to at least make sure she gets some water or juice.

  2. Hope you get better soon Dr. El.

    At my work there is a lot of sickness going around too: Colds, tummy bugs…sadly the CNA's will come to work when they are sick with all these things (and sick with just about anything)- when they call out it's not met with good will. We get into trouble for missing time; it shows up on our evals and for some, calling out more than once or twice a year means a bad performance eval and no income increases. Hence, sick aides spread their ills to residents, other employees, visitors.
    I wish there was a better way to manage workplace sickness.

  3. Hope you feel better soon. I've got it too, and swimming through jello is a good analogy.

    And yes, I've been going to work. The latest info is that we're spewing pathogens 24 hours before we feel our first symptom. As long as you're not dangerously ill (temperature over 100, vomiting or diarrhea that won't stop with Immodium) I advocate going to work. Staying home only puts more stress on your coworkers and residents and will cause them to get sick anyway.

  4. Diane, your mom is lucky to have an advocate like yourself. One of the challenging things about nursing homes is that staff members have multiple residents to attend to, so care is never going to be the same as if one aide or family member has only one person to care for. On the other hand, one of the good things about nursing homes is that there is always someone at a higher level with whom to address your concerns, so if the aides and the nurse on the floor aren't handling things to your satisfaction, you can raise the issue about dehydration with the nursing supervisor, and then the Director of Nursing , and then the administrator, and then the Ombudsman, and then the State…

  5. Thanks for the well wishes, Patti and K. Tree. I was still swimming through jello yesterday and didn't have the energy to ask the infection control specialist what the policy is regarding illness in the nursing home, but I'm sure there is one. If anyone is aware of the policy, please share it. Thanks.

  6. K. Tree,
    While we may be infectious prior to feeling our first symptoms, we continue to be while we are symptomatic as well. Coming to work while you are sick may very well spread the infection, especially if you have a cold or the flu. Every nursing home I have ever worked in has always had the policy, staff members who are ill should stay home and loved ones who are under the weather should not visit. It is my understanding, stress itself does not give us the cold or flu or anything else, it compromises our immune system, increasing the chances of catching a "bug."

  7. In my experience, what the "policy" says and what actually happens are two different things. They "tell" you they don't want you to come to work sick. However, if you call in, they either tell you they "aren't accepting call ins" or they tell you to come in so they can "evaluate" you.

    I still feel lousy today. If I call in, they'll tell me they don't "accept" call in's on the weekend. Maybe there are nursing homes out there that are different, but this is how mine operates.

    And I realize I was still spreading pathogens, but is it better to leave them without help? When I think of how many times my ladies get short-changed because we're short-handed, I feel it's better to have me there than to not. I'd be willing to bet my ladies would agree.

  8. I think this illustrates one of bigger problems in nursing homes and medical facilities in general. The fact that staff must choose between going to work sick or getting into trouble/losing their jobs is wrong. There is no Plan B, a back up if you will, for sick staff. Schedules don't allow for it. Funny how so many, so called health care facilities set up elaborate policies about the recent h1N1 virus thing. Our own federal government said STAY HOME if you have flu symptoms. Yet the people who WORK for facilities had no options. No Plan B. Some people spend a lot of time recommending and in cases, demanding everyone get flu shots. Yet nursing staff have no options. No Plan B.

    I don't advocate staying home if a tylenol brings fever down. I say, go to work if Pepto Bismol works. No hand nails' should be an excuse to miss work.

    I have seen staff's nasty colds turn into nastier sinus infections- that spread to sickly patients, who develop severe bronchitis and die.
    I've seen the staff tummy bug go viral in nursing homes, dehydrating residents and causing weight losses that are devastating to frail residents.

    We need a Plan B.

  9. As with most things there are multiple contributing factors to the problem and no simple solutions. Unfortunately, many staff members do take advantage of the work place calling in sick when they, frankly, are not. Many facilities, at least those I am familiar with, do have a "Plan B," on call staff or agency staff.


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