Home Care Diary – Dentures


Something funny happened yesterday. I wanted to tell you about it. It wasn’t funny really, it was actually sad and a bit tragic and horrible but it was still a bit funny – I’ll let you be Judge Judy.

I had a visit to see Albert at 9am. I go to him a lot. Albert was a bomber pilot in the second war. He’s in his 90s now and he’s not very mobile so he uses the commode. I need to help him get out of bed so he can sit on the commode. There’s supposed to be two of us and I was meant to have another male carer with me but he didn’t turn up. That happens quite a lot to be honest. It’s a mad system really – the agency gives me my visits and they give the other carers their visits and sometimes two of us are meant to be at a visit together. But I use the bus and they use the bus and I come from here and they come from there and they get delayed or I get delayed – I mean anything can happen – and yet we’re both supposed to get somewhere at 11am and we get moaned at if we’re 5 minutes early or 5 minutes late. It seems so unfair.

I had to have someone come to my house from British Gas to look at my boiler and they gave me a time slot of 12 to 6pm – 6 hours. So I had to take the whole afternoon off. And yet because it’s home care we have to do things with 5 minute time slots.

Anyway I got to Albert’s house at 11 and the other carer wasn’t there. I called the agency and they said they’d find out and call me back but they never did so I waited a bit and then I got the key from Albert’s key safe and went in.

‘Morning Albert,’ I shouted as I went in. His hearing’s not very good so I have to shout. I went to the phone so I could log in. Albert was in his bed.

‘Hello darling,’ he said. He always calls me darling. I like it really but I’m not so keen when he touches my breasts or puts his hand up my skirt. I push his hand away and tell him he mustn’t do that but I don’t think he understands. His wife died 10 years ago so it’s not easy for him but I still don’t think it’s right. I told the agency about it and they said they’d speak to him and they sent someone out to talk to him but he still does it.

I moved the commode next to the bed. He’s on the ground floor. The house is two stories but Albert hasn’t been upstairs since his wife died and he moved into the living room. I went upstairs to take a look and check that there weren’t any leaks or damp patches or mice running around. It was cold upstairs and a bit scary. There was a spider in the bath which I flushed away. There was a lot of dust. One day I’ll give it a good clean but I can’t do it in the time Albert has and I’m not allowed to do it for him privately or I’ll get sacked. So it stays like that – cold and dusty with the bath full of spiders and all his wife’s old clothes still in the cupboard. Albert has children but they don’t live nearby and they don’t seem to visit very often. It doesn’t seem like much of a life sometimes but that’s the same for all of us in a way – listen to me getting all philosophical!

I made Albert a cup of tea. He likes it milky with 3 sugars. That’s a lot of sugar but it doesn’t make much difference at his age, does it?

‘I need the commode,’ said Albert.

Sometimes he likes to talk while I’m helping him and sometimes he doesn’t. I tell him about my life. He likes to know what Richard is up to and what Tim has done, or more usually hasn’t done. Talking is very important for my Service Users. They’re all lonely and they don’t hear much about the outside world except from me. Sometimes I think I rabbit on a bit but they don’t mind.

I helped Albert onto the commode. I made sure he was comfortable.

‘I’ll go in the kitchen while you do your business,’ I said.

‘Number 2,’ said Albert which was more information than I needed really but at least I knew what I’d have to do.

I went in the kitchen and did some tidying up. I checked the ‘use by’ dates on the food in the fridge and made him a ham sandwich. I could smell Albert’s number 2 from the next room – it was very strong. I waited a bit longer and then poked my head into the room.

‘Are you done?’ I called out loudly.

‘Yes darling,’ said Albert.

I helped him off the commode and pulled up his pyjama trousers. He leaned on me and tried to cup my breast in his hand.

‘Don’t do that Albert,’ I said.

‘I feel sick,’ he said.

He leaned over the commode and vomited. I thought I saw something come out of his mouth and land in the poo and the paper. I helped him into bed and plumped up the pillows and pulled the covers over him. He was pale.

‘My denture,’ he said. ‘I think it came out.’

I looked in the commode. His denture was at the side sitting on a bit of toilet paper. It was pink and the teeth had some poo on them. I put on a glove and picked it out. Oh, I must tell you. We used to have these nitrile gloves which were nice and strong and the agency would let us take a boxful. But a couple of months ago they changed to these vinyl gloves which are rubbish – they’re really thin and they tear very easily. We’ve all complained but the agency doesn’t take any notice; they say that the other ones are too expensive and they’re not getting the money from the Councils so they have to cut back. But it’s not nice for us, if we’re up to our arms in poo and the glove breaks.

I showed Albert the denture.

‘That’s it,’ he said. ‘Give it here.’

‘I need to clean it first.’

I went to the bathroom and cleaned it under the hot tap and rubbed it to get it clean. I gave it to Albert and he put it in his mouth.

‘Where’s the other one?’ he said.

‘How many are there?’ I said.

‘There’s another one, the top plate.’

‘I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘But I’ll have another look.’

I put my vinyl gloves back on and rummaged around in the commode but there was only poo and pee and paper.

‘There’s no more dentures,’ I said. ‘Are you sure it was in your mouth?’

‘Where else would it be?’ said Albert.

I looked again but it definitely wasn’t there. I told Albert. He was not happy.

I took the commode through to the bathroom and emptied it and cleaned it thoroughly but I didn’t find another denture. I went back in the living room; Albert held up the other denture.

‘I found it in the bedclothes,’ he said.

The visit had lasted 40 minutes instead of half an hour. I logged out. I knew I’d only be paid for 30 minutes but what can you do? You can’t just leave someone because their denture falls in the commode. But it still seems a bit unfair.

I got paid £3.80 for that visit. That’s not very much is it? I tell people that I don’t do it for the money and that is certainly true. I saw in the paper that Wayne Rooney gets £200000 per week. If you divide that by 35 hours – I don’t know if his week is that long but anyway – that’s £5714 an hour, £2857 for half an hour.

I wonder if Wayne Rooney has ever had to get a denture out of a pile of poo?

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