Easy Ollie

(And now for something completely different. I worked in nursing homes as an aide, and then an LPN for more than 10 years. I try to write funny things about it, but not much about dementia is funny. I have a great deal of respect for the people I took care of – even Mr. Mustard, who did not do it in the dining room with a candlestick, but did drive me and my colleagues nuts when he went on his screaming fits at three-o-clock in the morning, right after everyone finally went to sleep. Remember these people, and the people who take care of them. Give them respect and understanding, they deserve it.)

Warm piss. The smell of fear. Moaning from dark corners, piteous enough to never be considered rapture. This is a bad place, a place where nightmares are born and re-played, over and over again. He knows he has to get away from this place, or he will be consumed.

“Ollie? Oliver? Mr. Oliver, it’s time for breakfast! Let’s get you all dapper for the day!”

Sunlight. Blinds are opened, strangers whirl around him. This is the daytime dream. It’s not as bad, he can see the gloved hands before they touch, some gentle and patient, some rough and hard. He imagines the skin on the heart guiding those hands to be the same. The strangers chatter to one another, making plans for a day he has no say so in.

“I love taking care of Ollie, he’s so easy – oops, looks like he had an accident last night. He’s just wet, we’ll get it with his toileting care – let’s move him to the potty chair.”

Just like that, he’s lifted out of bed, on to cold plastic, naked, shivering, confused. The strangers keep calling him by a name he doesn’t know. Who is Ollie? Didn’t he know an Oliver, a long time ago? He struggles to ask, but he doesn’t remember how to make words. He grunts, tears of rage forming. This is the part of both dreams he hates the most.

“Hey – put in the notes that he’s constipated. He’s grunting so hard his eyes are watering, and nothing’s coming out.”

More gloves. More hands. Warm, soapy rags, strangers touching the most private of his parts, chattering, incessantly chattering about someone named “Oliver.” As if by magic, he’s dressed and sitting in a chair with wheels, a chair he will spend his day in, wishing he had the power to roll it into oblivion and be done with these dreams.

“See? He’s super-easy to do. That’s why I always start with him. Ollie’s a champ. Aren’t you Ollie?”

He wonders for the millionth time if he knows Ollie, as his chair with wheels is guided through antiseptic hallways by chattering strangers to the day room, where he is parked and sits with the others who are “easy to do.” He wonders if any of them are Ollie.