The Cat House

At this point you may say, “Well she finally lost it after all those years of nursing!” However, I want the younger nurses to start thinking about a career in the field of home health care. YOU can make a difference in the lives of so many by making the right calls at the right time. You can teach, protect and foresee on a first hand basis what is happening in your patient’s life.

Working as a home care nurse is not like any other job you will have in the setting of a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office. You must leave the comfort of knowing that someone is at your elbow to help access a vein for lab work and to know that there is no one but a family member to help you do a transfer from the bed to a wheelchair.

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The home care nurse is usually a seasoned veteran of the craft who has had many experiences and acquired much knowledge along the way. They know the ropes and take a situation and fall back on what they have learned to make the right decision based on their assessment. She or he can recognize these situations that may be going sour and alert the patient’s physician to what they feel, see, smell and know. Being the “doctor’s eyes” and right there in the patient’s home, t

 

hey can make recommendations.  Without a doubt, they are the unsung heroes of nursing. I would like younger nurses to read this article and start to think if you are up to the task as you grow in your experiences and knowledge and consider becoming a home health nurse. The rewards of watching a patient’s face light up when you come through the door and show them a procedure that they themselves or a family member have not been able to master is worth a thousand hugs and so rewarding.  You will, however, have the occasional patient and situation that can be not so pristine and not so sterile.  Let me give you an example, but remember this is not the norm.

Now, this really happened to me so I know it to be true.  For this example, though, we will pretend that you have been assigned an elderly patient in her 80’s whose name is Martha. Martha’s health has been declining but she keeps getting frequent infections and the doctor is at a loss of why this keeps occurring. You…..yes YOU…..arrive at the patient’s home. This was a great day because the directions were not complicated, and you found the house right away and all was great with the world because you didn’t get lost!!! You exit the car in front of the patient’s home with bag in hand.

As soon as you scrape your foot across the hot July pavement to climb the concrete steps, you notice a distinct aroma that just about “knocks you flat.” Oh my God, that smells like cat urine!!! The closer you get to the door the odor increases and your head is swimming with thoughts of what is on the other side of the door. You knock. You listen to the sounds of someone approaching the door and then crack it just a bit to look out. You explain why you are there, and the door opens wide.  Your first thought is, “dear Lord” but the little face looking up at you is one that is frail, solemn and kind. “Come in dear,” she says as the screen door opens. Quickly you look around the room and decide on a plain wooden chair with no covering or padding. Seems like a safe choice; and your patient, with tiny shuffles, sits down in her chair.

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While doing her vitals you glance around the living room which opens to the kitchen.  You notice your patient has decorated in “early litter box style!” There are at least 6 or 7 in the living room and several in the kitchen. You observe the ones that you can see, and they look like they should have been changed a month ago. My patient must have noticed me observing the decor and told me that her son, who lived with her, liked cats and had moved in with her a month ago when he lost his job. She explained, “I don’t know why we have so many now, they just seem to be multiplying.” As I did her assessment I asked if her son was at home and she dialed his number on the house phone and asked him to come down the stairs.

I am on the computer logging in my notes when a very disheveled younger man comes down the steps. “For God’s sake mother what is it now?” he asks. “The nurse wants to talk to you for a few minutes,” she answers. He plops down in a chair and stares at me waiting on me to question him. At this point I have had a fly doing a three point landing on my computer every three seconds. Yes, it was so bad that I was counting the seconds! Not only must there have been hundreds of flies in the home but also in a rough estimate I counted about 30 cats that I actually could see. Martha was actually wearing enough short hairs on her clothing that she easily could have made a cat out of all that hair.

“You know,” I said “your mother is living in an environment that is not at all healthy for her, and she has been having infection after infection. I am looking around your home and I see way too many cats for one household, and these are just the ones that I can see. The flies are literally dining off of the filthy litter boxes, and the cats who use the litter boxes are climbing on the kitchen counters. If something is not done by my next visit, I am afraid I am going to have to report the situation for your mother’s sake.” He looked around the living room as if seeing it for the first time. As I rose to leave, my nursing uniform literally peeled slowly from the wooden chair.  He heard it and looked me in the eye and said, “It will be cleaned up before you come next week.” I almost volunteered to help him for her sake–it was that horrendous!

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The following week I revisited my patient.  At the steps, the odor was not so overpowering. When the door opened, I didn’t need to hold my breath.  My little patient had a wide smile on her face. Gone were the litter boxes, the cat population had diminished greatly and the aroma now smelled of Lysol/cat urine. Not one fly landed on my computer, and my patient looked into my face beaming.  “After you talked to my son he really got busy and cleaned up the place!” It was all very worth the shock and awe of that dreadful day just one week earlier to see the delight on her face now!

26 thoughts on “The Cat House

  • August 24, 2017 at 11:26 am
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    Loved the title! This article had me from title to end. A true experience of the home care nurse. Great job at presenting the uncomfortable position the nurse is placed in, the assessment skills necessary and the importance of diplomacy. Another wonderful article.

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    • August 24, 2017 at 8:48 pm
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      Thank you Sandy so much…..I am GLAD that the story had you from beginning to end. As a newbie to this whole writing thing…..that is what it’s supposed to do….and since it was a true event….I wanted it to be as realistic as possible because Home Care Nurses do face some very unusual experiences!

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  • August 24, 2017 at 4:37 pm
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    Great article. The tough situation was taken care of and
    done nicely. It really drew the son’s attention to the matter

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    • August 24, 2017 at 8:50 pm
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      Than you JD Cameron! It was super tough as far as a nurse goes but to think of that poor little woman living that way……but it did have a happy ending & that was the best part!

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  • August 24, 2017 at 4:58 pm
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    Unfortunately, so much neglect of the elderly. Good article.

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    • August 24, 2017 at 8:52 pm
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      You are right Cindy…..although in dealing with this situation I do not think it was deliberate…..but the son just needed a wake up call…….thank you for your comment because I have seen way too much of what you are talking about!!!

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  • August 24, 2017 at 5:59 pm
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    Great article and so pleased that the nurse was brave enough to confront the situation. Thanks to all nurses for giving of themselves to this wonderful care. Blessings to all of you for you love and patience in such situations.

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    • August 24, 2017 at 8:55 pm
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      No matter if it’s a Home Care Nurse or any other kind of nurse we all in our careers face multiple tasks that are extremely wonderful or unpleasant. If you want to be a GREAT nurse you NEVER go into it for the money ….you go into it for the love of people…..just as they are and just as they are in the circumstances they find themselves in……thank you so much for recognizing this in your comment!

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  • August 24, 2017 at 6:42 pm
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    Absolutely 100% accurate, love it! Linda did it again. As a Home Care Nurse this depiction is so true of many patients and the impact we make does make a difference. Love this profession due to vast differences we make in every patient we come in contact with on a daily basis.

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    • August 24, 2017 at 8:59 pm
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      Since I do know you my friend and know that you have been a Home Care Nurse for a long time I take this as an extreme compliment!!!!!! You were one who helped me learn in this field and taught me different approaches that were well outside of my “outta the hospital experience.” Thank you for the work you have done in changing people’s lives right where they live and to the many others who helped me be a better nurse!!!!!!

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  • August 24, 2017 at 7:13 pm
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    Difficult situations present themselves occassionally. Home care nurses get first hand information of underlying health issues. This article is a great example!

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    • August 24, 2017 at 9:01 pm
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      Thank you Tammy…..you are 100% right. Home care nurses do get to see what we sometimes wonder about our patients…..”what is their home life like???” Can’t get more “up close and personal” then that…and again this is not the norm but more norm then most people expect!

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  • August 24, 2017 at 10:02 pm
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    Very well written! My best friend is involved in home healthcare and has had similar experiences. My utmost respect goes to those of you who do this very important and often difficult career.

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    • August 25, 2017 at 8:53 am
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      Thanks Beth…..Yes the Home Health Care nurses do many times go without notice and their situations at times can be very unusual…..but it is those cases that it is wonderful that nurses step in to help.

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    • August 25, 2017 at 10:43 am
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      Thank you Beth for your comments!!! Home Health Care can be “different” but the rewards are many!!!

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  • August 24, 2017 at 11:17 pm
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    Thank goodness you were there. You handled what could have been a really bad situation very professionally and Im so glad you got tnrough to her son. After having home health care for my mother I came to realize just how important they are and unfortunately how so much of their work go unnoticed. Thanks for sharing your story.

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    • August 25, 2017 at 8:51 am
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      Thank you Mary Jo: It was a bad situation & one I will never forget!!!

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  • August 25, 2017 at 9:42 am
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    I am so glad you stressed that Home Care nurses need to have experience. They also need to have imagination, intelligence, and patience all of which you made perfectly clear. Because the nurse has to be able to think on his or her feet it is extremely important to have someone with the real biggie common sense!

    Thanks for another lovely article. Keep it up!

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    • August 25, 2017 at 10:39 am
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      Appreciate your comments Jane. You are so right about each aspect you gave…this group of nurses must have all and remain calm in uncomfortable situations. Like I said….most Home Care situations are without surprises but then you do get the “what the heck” ones…..thanks so much!!!

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  • August 25, 2017 at 3:02 pm
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    Great article! Makes you realize that a nurse never knows when they leave for work what kind of situation they might find themselves in. This one was handled well with diplomacy and patient advocacy, traits all nurses can use in any setting to benefit our patients. Glad to know this patient is in a much healthier environment due to your intervention.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 7:52 am
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    Loved this one! What a difference home care nurses can make. Bless this little gals heart <3 So glad you were able to make a difference in both the son and the mother's life. Sometimes all that is needed is a loving heart and a line drawn in the….ehem sand. 😉

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    • August 27, 2017 at 8:07 pm
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      Thank you so much….one case I will remember for the rest of my days but one that I feel I made a difference.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 8:05 pm
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    AMEN & AMEN. However for every case like the one I lived and described, there are 20 that are “normal!” Thanks for your comments Vickie!!!

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  • August 28, 2017 at 7:23 am
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    Great article.. I had a cat once but far prefer canines.. Too many cats is unhealthy, glad you intervened here.

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    • August 28, 2017 at 8:22 am
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      Thanks Darrell…….we have two….and even a few more would be okay as long as your were able to care for them properly. This little lady’s son, although healthy enough to, did NOT care for them and they pretty much “owned” the house. Was thankful I was able to intervene for her.

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  • September 3, 2017 at 8:25 pm
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    wonderful article. the more of your stories i read the more it becomes obvious that nursing can be a story out of Indiana Jones, always an adventure. looking foward to your next article.

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