This week’s diary is by a manager of a residential care home for people with mental health problems

One of my residents has become unwell over the weekend. He assures me that
although he has been suffering from sickness and diarrhoea, there is nothing to
worry about. I disagree and send for the doctor immediately. The GP duly
arrives three hours later and informs me that my resident probably has a chest
infection. Although I fail to see the connection between the symptoms and the
diagnosis, I agree to escort my client to hospital for a chest X-ray tomorrow.

My "chest infection" resident is rushed to hospital by ambulance
following a suspected heart attack. Several nurses from the coronary care unit
call me to ask about his next of kin. They cannot seem to accept that he does
not have one. "We need a name for our paperwork," says the last caller.
"If you can’t come up with the information, then we’ll just have to put
your name down." Bless, I’ve just gained a new relative.

One of my residents comes to the office for a chat. He has a good insight into
his own mental health problems and usually manages to cope with the knowledge
that he suffers from delusional ideas. Today, however, he is particularly
perturbed by an inner voice that keeps telling him he is special. I re-affirm
that he is special, we all are. "No, this is different," he says,
exasperated. "I keep thinking that I’m God." Now it might be that I’m
getting old, bitter and twisted, due to a recent marriage breakdown, but this
doesn’t strike me as particularly unusual – it is not the first time that a man
has told me he is a god.

I am always popular on a Thursday because it is the day when I hand out
personal allowances to my residents. I spend the morning chatting to a steady
stream of visitors who have come to collect their weekly money from me. In the
afternoon I phone the hospital to enquire about the progress of my client, only
to discover that they cannot give me any information. The nurse’s reason: I am
not a relative. After carefully explaining that he doesn’t have any relatives
and I’m actually listed on their forms as his next of kin, I am told that
someone will ring me back. Someone does call me to say that if his GP phones,
they will give the information to him. The doctor can then decide if the
information should be shared with me. Nurse Jobsworth goes on to ask about the
regularity of my client’s depot injection. I respond: "I’m so sorry, but
as you’re not a relativeÉ" I know it is petty, but I just couldn’t resist.

A mountain of paperwork keeps me at my desk all day. In the evening I meet up
with my friend Mary, who is a team leader at a day centre for people with
dementia. After discussing the trials and tribulations of our week over a
bottle of vodka, we both decide that we love our jobs. It makes for thirsty
work though.

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