Many women, and nowadays men, enter the nursing field with visions of helping others and making a difference in the world, then somewhere along the line, find themselves in a position of taking painful blows, cleaning messes so horrendous there are no words to describe, or grieving over patients they’ve come to love.
Upon becoming a certified nursing assistant, you realize your job is one of atrocious measures which can have you screaming in agony one minute, crying over a deceased stranger the next. A nursing assistant’s work is a mixture of janitor, maid, entertainer, family member, and forklift.
Although, in past years, there have been complaints made by some family members that their loved one received abuse while being cared for in a nursing home, most health care workers are caring individuals who empathize with the patients and want only to help them through their last days, months or years.
Imagine showing up for your job only to find that the first order of business is to attend a resident who has not only had an accident but has unwittingly spread excrement all over the bed rails, in his or her hair, all over the clothing, and even on the floor. Imagine, too, that the resident weighs over 300 pounds and is unable to walk or sit up on his own. Now, throw in the fact that this particular resident is combative and you’ve got quite a challenge on your hands.
Nursing assistants are faced with just that type of challenge – repeatedly. Some patients never go to the bathroom on their own, some residents are stuck in an era from 40 years ago, some think you’re there to harm them. Some think you’re keeping them captive against their will, others whisper embarrassing things to you in hopes you will cooperate with some fantasy they’ve concocted since meeting you.
Then there are the sad patients that cry and simply can’t be consoled, patients who ask where their spouse, children or grandchildren are, patients that beg you to take them home or kill them. The others scream out in pain, wander around and must be led back to their rooms, try to escape. It’s an emotional and physical job beyond compare.
Depending upon the shift the nursing assistant is working her day can include lifting patients, changing diapers, giving baths to a person who cannot assist in any way, transferring the residents by wheelchair, feeding, clipping toenails, making beds and cleaning. And those are the easy tasks. In a typical day a nursing assistant can be hit, bit, scratched, slapped, pinched, spit on, cursed and more. Yet, within minutes, or even seconds, the assistant must be willing to play “all is forgiven” and continue to assist and care.
The nursing assistant tries to make happiness by throwing birthday parties, having special events, decorating for changing seasons or celebrating a holiday with the residents. They sing, take photos, hand out balloons and always, always, smile.
At the end of the day you may see a nursing assistant helping residents into their beds, reading Bible verses to those who request it, singing songs to cheer up someone who’s crying, or preparing the body of a loved resident for transport to the funeral home. The nursing assistant often has to talk to the loved ones of the deceased, console them, recall pleasant thoughts for the family to remember.
We all hope that we’ll never have to become a resident in a nursing home, but for those who will, their lives and livelihood will depend upon the caring of another. Without these special people many would die at home, alone. Without the help of nursing assistants many families would be forced to take care of the elderly, with no knowledge of how to do that. And, it would take many family members to do the job of just one nursing assistant.
If you know a nursing assistant, or one takes care of a loved one for you, take the time to thank him or her for their love, patience, tolerance and thoughtfulness. These caring individuals deserve a lot more praise than what they receive but will continue to care for those in need, even if the praise never comes.