Are These Your Teeth? How an Upper Partial Suddenly Felt Like Cinderella’s Glass Slipper
Care management can often be a thankless job. Our Care Managers work hard every day to ensure our clients are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Along the way, however, everything can change in an instant. The below story, written by Bridgeway Care Manager Karen Rosenberg, is a true experience she encountered as part of her job. It’s a wonderful example of how a Bridgeway Care Manager made a difference for one of her clients in a small but important way!
The teeth were missing for a week. I hadn’t been back for a visit since the day of admission to the skilled nursing center, and that’s the last time he recalled having his teeth. For some reason, I thought the teeth had been tucked in the breast pocket of his shirt when I visited that day. Now it’s a week later and I’m learning that the teeth have been MIA all this time. What does that mean? It means he hasn’t been able to eat a range of the foods he enjoys because he hasn’t had the teeth to chew safely; it means a mechanical soft diet.
I look through the wardrobe and go through all articles of clothing to see if the upper partial is anywhere to be found. I find nothing. While he and I discuss possible solutions to this problem, a CNA walks in with clean laundry. I quickly introduce myself and ask, “what would happen if someone left their teeth in a shirt pocket and it went through the laundry here?” She says, “Oh! I saw some teeth in the laundry room. I’ll check to see if they’re still there.” A few minutes later, she comes back to the room: “the teeth are in the social worker’s office. I’ll walk you down there.” We walk together, as I wring my hands and breathe deeply. I feel intensely hopeful that the missing teeth are moments away from being discovered, and at the same time I can’t deny a feeling of despair that the teeth may not be his.
We arrive at the social worker’s office and I introduce myself. The social worker stands up and reaches over to a shelf above her desk to pick up a Kleenex-wrapped mound. Without unwrapping the Kleenex, she hands the teeth to me and asks who I am giving them to. I tell her the name of the patient, and she responds, “Ok, well, if they’re not his, bring them back. I have one other person they might belong to.” I give my thanks and turn to walk back down the hall, Kleenex-wrapped teeth in hand.
I feel my pace quicken as I walk back to his room. I can’t help but feel a tinge of excitement at the idea that these are his teeth. How amazing it will be to deliver his teeth to him, after a week of distress without them. Day after day, anxiety about what happened to the teeth, and how they might (or might not be) replaced. Meal after meal of foods that he wouldn’t have had to eat if only he’d had his teeth.
As I walk in the room and hand him the upper partial, I suddenly think of Cinderella and the glass slipper. What if these teeth fit in his mouth? And, what if these aren’t his teeth? Will he know right away when he unwraps the Kleenex and sees them?
He takes the mound of Kleenex and we look at each other with restrained hope. Neither of us is willing to get excited about this until we KNOW.
The teeth are unwrapped. He looks at them, I look at them. They look to be his. And then, the test: he puts them in his mouth. THEY FIT! Hallelujah and Amen! We have teeth!
And I realize this may be the closest experience I’ve had to a Cinderella glass-slipper moment. If only this could mean a happily-ever-after for my friend. Alas, it’s a start.
About the Author
Karen Gordon Rosenberg has been a member of the Bridgeway team for 3 years. With an extensive background in gerontology and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan, Karen’s career has focused on the Detroit Jewish community, working with older adults and collaborating with professional and lay leaders in the community. Working in a congregate housing for older adults, Karen focused on achieving maximum well-being for residents while enabling them to age in place independently. This included helping families cope with the stress of caregiving for their aging loved ones. While addressing the needs of multi-generational families, Karen developed a depth and breadth of knowledge of valuable resources in the community. Helping people thrive by connecting them to the appropriate support systems continues to fulfill Karen both personally and professionally. Karen is devoted to her family, taking an active role in the lives of her four growing children. She takes pride in her volunteer work as a parent at school, an active member of her synagogue, and an advocate for her neighborhood. Commitment to her daily yoga practice helps her to maintain balance while nourishing body and mind.