Duct tape solves long-term care crisis

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

“Astonished” doesn't even begin to cover the feeling. “Disappointed” is also woefully inadequate.

To describe a recent, very public, wardrobe humiliation that occurred in the bustling epicenter of a long-term care corporate headquarters, I think I'm going to have to go with “shocking” — dictionary-defined as “causing a feeling of surprise and dismay.”

Really, it should be a movie.

SCENE 1 — Trapped under a desk

Location: Busy marketing department

Cast: Aging Canadian (me) wearing black dress pants and a button-down shirt, oblivious colleagues

When it actually happened, I was, indeed, “surprised and dismayed.” I had just completed a portrait photo session and crawled under a colleague's desk to unplug an extension cord. That's when I heard the gruesome sound — a horrible, ripping noise that sounded like a cross between a wounded Canada goose and tearing open the Velcro flap on my pleather man bag.

Looking down suddenly, I could see with horror that my dress pants had just torn from knee to equator, rent asunder like the curtain of the Hebrew temple, though without any sign of an angel's hand.

So there I was, cowering beneath the desk in what probably appeared to be either impromptu prayer or a poorly executed Yoga move. I was also temporarily blinded by the whiteness of my now entirely visible left thigh, and hopelessly trapped Custer-style by my seated and still oblivious colleagues.

SCENE 2 — The glory of duct tape

Location: My office

Cast: Aging Canadian (me), now mercifully alone but overwhelmed with a sense of extreme hopelessness

Eventually, when no heads turned and I sensed an opportunity, I clutched at my pant leg, held the gaping fabric wound together as best I could, and scampered in fear back to my office, slamming the door and sinking against it with a sigh of relief. Why I felt any sense of respite, I have no idea, because really nothing had changed. Now I was simply trapped in a windowless room without food or water, and nothing to cover my modesty but old copies of McKnight's Long-Term Care News and a collection of multi-colored Post-It notes.

Instinctively I knew one thing: I wasn't leaving like this. I estimated I'd be missed within four to seven business days, and a search would begin at least by the following month. My body would eventually be found by a curious janitor and co-workers would shake their heads sadly before fighting over my valuables.

Then I saw it — a fresh role of duct tape that beckoned like a bottle of Gatorade in Death Valley, left behind in the sand just for me, possibly by the Donner Party. For a moment, I felt like a member of Shackleton's desperate brigade, knowing that beyond all hope, rescue was at hand. Although I would have preferred it to have been delivered along with a flask of whiskey from the neck of a St. Bernard, I was grateful nonetheless.  

SCENE 3 — Desperate and afraid

Location: Salvation Army Thrift Store

Cast: Aging Canadian (me) with ripped pants covered with duct tape, puzzled patrons

After taping myself from stem to stern and slipping into the longest coat I could find, I rushed to the car with only 15 minutes before my next appointment. Panic now returned, realizing I was much too far from the nearest mall and that clearly, there would be no Nordstrom personal shopper involved.

Seeing just one available option, I steeled myself and executed the plan. And, no, there are no changing rooms at the Salvation Army thrift store.

SCENE 4 — Risking arrest

Location: The parking lot in front of the store

Time: Broad daylight

Cast: Bald, aging Canadian (me) who now has to change his clothes in public

Now came the ultimate indignity — changing in the car, in public, surrounded by crowds of passersby, in the full light of day, expecting to be arrested or Snapchatted, or both, at any moment. This is not easy for someone my age, by the way — I'm pretty sure I dislocated my elbow and snapped four tendons contorting myself to get the ripped pants off and the new pair of unwashed, straight-off-the-rack Salvation Army pants on. The miracle was that they fit, though perhaps not such a miracle once I discovered the waist was elastic.

SCENE 5 The aftermath

Location: Home, in my red chair

Time: Now

Cast: Bald, aging Canadian (me) who is trying to achieve catharsis by writing about this

Did any of this really happen? Here's your answer

What does this have to do with long-term care? I wanted to let you know that you're not alone in having to improvise to get the job done. Hopefully, your biggest challenges don't have to involve partial self-nudity, and they give you more than duct tape.

Also, I realized I can't effectively help you meet the needs of today's seniors until I move on from this horrifying experience and somehow heal.

The best way I could think of to do that was to truthfully and without shame share the story with a friend. You're my friends, right? Right?

Maybe I shouldn't have asked.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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