It is 10:30am on Tuesday. Last night when I walked out of the facility at 6:30pm, I ended a 5 day stretch of back to back 12.5 hour shifts. I felt energetic, accomplished, and really felt as if I had made a small difference in the lives of my residents. This morning, I’m beat. My back took a bit to relax as I stretched those sore muscles, my hands hurt, my feet hurt. And I’d not trade a single moment for being painless today.
The house is quiet, only me and my cat are hanging out in my room. Next to me on the desk is my second cup of coffee in my favorite cup, “Crazy Cat Lady, One Cat Just Leads To Another”. I’m kinda OCD about my coffee cups, there are 3 that I will drink coffee from, any others in the vast collection we have in the Diva Den and the coffee doesn’t taste right. I know, that is insane but it is just how I am. I also cannot eat Chipotle unless it is with a plastic fork, no metal fork or I just cannot put it in my mouth. I’m weird, I know.
Baby sister is in bed sleeping, she pulled the night shift at her facility last night. Difference is she is an RN with a BSN in nursing, and a master’s in finance, and also the D.O.N. (Director Of Nursing) at her facility. They were short a night nurse so she pulled the shift. Her first of several this week. Her employees are always in awe of her, as she will put on scrubs and work next to her aides changing diapers, feeding residents, spotting when a lift is in use, even sitting on the floor cleaning wheel chairs! She’ll pass meds, comfort weeping residents, sit with the confused soul who refuses to stay in their chair and is a fall risk so the nurses and aides can do their job. All this and more, while her own work waits for her to get back to it. They love working for her because she doesn’t see any task as beneath her title and salary. She knows her aides are the backbone of that facility, the muscle behind the nurses getting to do their job, and ultimately the reason her facility is top notch. I wish she was over our facility.
I know that we both get our work ethic from mom. She too will do anything to make a resident more comfortable. It speaks volumes to me that while she works for hospice and isn’t employed at my facility the majority of her patients reside here and everyone is tearful at the news of her retirement and return of her cancer that will take her from us entirely too soon. SO many have come up to tell me how much they will miss her, that she is not replaceable, is one of a kind, and to offer support and prayers for my family as we face this part of her journey. She kicks butt at her job, and her compassion and heart for these old people, dying or not, cannot be measured.
When I finally did decide to get into this field I pulled from that drive she instilled in me and my siblings. It has taken me a while to adjust to this job to get done just the absolutely necessary tasks, but it has been worth it. NO one hits the unit floor for the first time able to leap tall blow out bowel movements in a single bound, shave the men, get folks up and dressed who cannot move, clean the finger nails of all your assigned folks, change diapers every 2 hours, feed 3 meals, shower each twice a week and so on. Even seasoned aides have trouble just doing the basics, time and Murphy’s Law work against us every shift. But we sure try. We complain, roll our eyes, mutter to each other and ourselves, and yet we come back the next shift and do it all over again because something inside most of us would rather do this for far less money than some of the jobs we’ve left behind or could be doing for far better pay.
Yesterday I was brushing someone’s dentures, fresh from their mouth (this one sleeps with the teeth in), all slimy with spital and food bits, and realizing that the majority of the stuff I clean off of my glasses multiple times in a day is just that, second hand spital and things I do not want to even think about. And yet it doesn’t gross me out. It is part of the hazard of the job of doing for someone else the very basic daily life activities that they can no longer do for themselves. Our pay sucks, but the glowing smiles of thanks make it worth it. Throughout the day we manage to laugh through it all (that or we’d run for the time clock and tell the place to kiss our dimpled rears) at the antics and insanity of it all. And some days we cry, because there is no way if you have an ounce of compassion for these people that your heart isn’t totally and completely attached to them, and we see them slipping ever so slightly away each day and eventually one day they are gone. I’ve lost 2 so far and I know the turnover will be continuous. One I care for has my heart wrapped so tightly around her sweet self that when she goes I’m going to be a puddle of tears for days.
I’m thankful as I sit here, with my cat and my coffee, realizing just how blessed I am to have woken up in my own bed, in my own room, in this house I share with my mom, sister and niece. Grateful that I can go shower myself, use the bathroom without assistance, and feed myself without someone else’s hand to guide mine or put the food in my mouth for me. No call lights going off, no one yelling things unaware from their confused minds, no chaos of 5 aides getting 48 people dressed, changed and to a meal….just peace and quiet, coffee and occasional purrs. And looking forward to my next shift.