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It’s been apparent all week that I need to be here. There was and is much to sort out and it isn’t like Carol can hop out of bed and see to it herself.

The level of disorganization seems pervasive. On Monday, Carol shook her head and said, “Debbie, they showed up to give me a bath, but forgot the soap!”

My task is to be Carol’s advocate, identifying and chasing down the staffers responsible for everything that’s going wrong—and that’s a lot. Most urgent was that Carol wasn’t getting any sleep to speak of. Her roommate screamed during the night, which the staff responded to by throwing on all the bright lights and creating even more of a ruckus, including berating the traumatized woman for screaming.

Carol can’t get better without sleep so that was number one, but no one seemed to be able to do anything about it. Then, on Wednesday, the floor manager returned from her vacation and my pleas were heard. Hoany explained that a patient would be discharged that day and Carol would be given a private room. Our celebration was short-lived because on Thursday, we learned that the patient’s discharge hit a snag, and hadn’t happened. Still, Hoany found another way, and last night, Carol was moved. It wasn’t to a private room, but at least it was to a quiet one. (And I had some misgivings about their choice to inflict the screaming roommate on yet another victim. It seemed she was the one who needed to be isolated. But I wasn’t about to protest a private room for Carol.)

So today, my last full day, I can at least point to some accomplishments. Another was the timing of meds. Carol has two hours of therapy every day, but she was always taken to the therapy room just as her pain meds were wearing off, making it too painful to lift her legs, raise her arms, or do any of the repetitive tasks prescribed. Within a couple days, we were able to get the schedule changed, thanks to Dr. Tinney.

Compared to pain and sleep, food might seem minor, but it wasn’t. Carol needs to get stronger, and that won’t happen if the food is unpalatable.

Each meal tray comes with several small, covered containers. Open one, and we’d find gloppy cole slaw, another, apple juice, though she’d wanted decaf tea. The hamburgers have fluffy wonder bread buns, and crisply overcooked patties with limp lettuce leaves and pallid slices of tomato. The fries are pale and soggy. The lunch trays soon join the un-eaten breakfast trays congealing on a shelf near the door, along with her roommates mostly untouched meals. The food waste here must be staggering.

It’s never what she orders, but the usual response to our inquiries is that the staff is new. “What, they can’t read?” I’m tempted to ask. Occasionally, a tray will arrive exactly as ordered, but always our celebration is short-lived. This problem seems too entrenched for me to apply my squeaky wheel curative to.