To Catch A Thief

Mom was extremely upset last night because someone stole the fancy antique clock in the coffee shop of her nursing home at some point over the holiday weekend. "I mean, who would steal a clock?" she asked me in disgust.

This isn't the first time something precious has been stolen either. A few weeks back, the thief walked off with a very nice portable stereo with detachable speakers that was perched high up on a shelf in the very same coffee shop. So now the old folks are left without two basic neccessities: a clock to watch time slip by and a radio to play their polka music.

Because of these recent thefts, my mom has worked herself into a tizzy and now eyes every nursing home worker and outside visitor with suspicion. The nurses's aide letting us back into the locked building last night is a suspect, the custodian with the shifty eyes could be the one and it's never occurred to my mother that maybe it's actually a resident that took these things.

Alicia, the administrator, came back from her 3-month maternity leave yesterday and was forced to deal on her first day back with many residents loudly voicing their concerns that they've been infiltrated by a no-good crook!

I tried to tell mom last night that there's nothing to be worried about, but she reminded me about the break-in about a month ago. "Well, that was just kids looking for Oxycontin from the medication carts." "Oh, Yea?" she asked, "What if they break in again and take one of us hostage?" (Now that would be pretty funny, wouldn't it?) I asked her, "How much do you think they would get for you?" She thought for a second and replied, "Huh..not much."

It's pretty pathetic that anyone would steal from a nursing home when these facilities have so little to begin with. But theft of personal property is a major concern It's been my first hand experience that residents have things stolen from them all the time-bottles of perfume, cans of soda left on nightstands, money in change purses left hidden under pillows next to dentures.

My mother has actualy woken up in the middle of the night startled by a strange noise only to discover a CNA worker rifling through the top drawer of her nightstand. When my mom demanded to know what she was doing, the aide actually had the nerve to say my mother's top draw had come off it's track and she was simply putting it back in place--at 3am in the morning. Now what do you think she was really doing?

My mother has even had inconsequential things taken from her such as pages from her Horse page-a-day calendar and recently a favorite tie-dyed shirt. Upon discovering another resident wearing her t-shirt, she marched right up to the woman and demanded to know why she was wearing her shirt. "You know damned well that's not your shirt. That's my shirt. Who the hell wears a tie-dyed shirt in this place except me!" The woman replied, "I didn't have any clothes so the aide gave it to me." Really? So now my mother's closet is a back-up option to other residents if their clothing hasn't come back from laundry?

To combat theft, I bought my mom two inexpensive filing cabinets with locks. She keeps her most valuable possessions inside these four drawers. I do realize that if anyone really wanted to steal something they could just jimmy open the lock and take anything they wanted. These filing cabinets are meant to secure documents rather than personal treasures. But it's at least a small deterrent to anyone looking to score off of my mother.

The realization that I can no longer give my mom gifts such as a nice figurine or a beautiful picture frame can be very depressing at times. And if I buy her expensive clothing, I understand there is always the chance that the laundry department could lose or ruin the clothing. When you live in a nursing home, every purchase has to be weighed heavily because you just don't know how long you'll get to enjoy it.

Keeping track of your own stuff is hard enough. But it seems now residents have the added worry of wondering when the next big thing will be stolen out of common areas such as their coffee shop and dining hall. Unfortunately for the residents in my mom's nursing home-they've got one more thing to worry about. When will the thief strike next?

Aside from the potential hostage crisis, that is.

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