Getting to the teeth of the matter

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

“I have a bone to pick with you,” proclaimed the indignant voice on the other end of the line.

The last time someone made that offer, it was Mom. And if memory serves, the chat didn't go so well. In my experience, conversations that begin with that invitation seldom do.

So I warily asked how I could help.

“When I visited my mother at the nursing home yesterday, somebody else's dentures were on her night stand,” the voice protested.

“Are you sure they weren't hers?” I asked sheepishly. “I mean, how can you tell?”

“Easy,” she said. “My mother doesn't wear dentures.”

When I inquired about the resolution she was after, a one-word reply ensued: “Justice!”

I told her to try calling the facility. Maybe they could make things right by offering an extra dessert? Wrong answer.

“No, I want them to really pay for this.”

It was clear I'd get nowhere by reminding her that in the grand scheme, misplaced dentures might not be considered a hanging offense. So I held my tongue while her harangue droned on. And on.

 “Look,” I finally interrupted. “You have to realize that the people who work at your Mom's place are pretty busy. I doubt they meant to cause you any harm. It's very possible another resident placed them there by accident. But I can tell this is bothering you. So why don't you call the administrator and see what he can do? If that doesn't work, you can maybe call the state ombudsman's office and lodge a complaint, OK?”

I could tell that the second option was probably going to be the preferred choice.

“Maybe the ombudsman can help put some heat on that rotten place!” she responded, with what I detected to be a new, hopeful tone.

“By the way,” I asked. "Did you turn in the dentures?  I'm guessing there's a resident there who could probably use them.” Clearly, that option had never entered her mind. To her, they were nothing more than crime-scene evidence.

“Now why would I do that?” she shot back.

I realize we are in the service sector. And I've heard repeatedly that the customer is always right. But my tolerance for petty whining had expired. Before I could realize it, I blurted out yet another wrong answer.

“Maybe so the owner can use them for something that's actually worth chewing on."



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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.