As with all plans in life and good intentions, well life happens and things go sideways. So while my goal was to write daily, even if it meant doing it on my phone on my breaks at work, well it simply didn’t happen.
I’ve been enjoying life and work, pushing through and taking on all of the over time I can handle and still get some sleep even if it is a 5 hour nap before heading back to work. But I’m happy. I dance again, sing and laugh with my residents. I console and wipe tears. That is what happened last night.
I was struggling through the final 3 hours of two days of back to back 16 hour shifts. My edge was fading along with my motivation and I was asking myself again why I did this for a living and why so many hours. Questioning if it was time to move on to something different. That is when a resident came to me with tears in her eyes and asked me, “why am I here?” and I pulled out my empathy tiara. I explained the need to be safe, that she, like everyone there, has dementia and forgets things. Important things like food cooking on the stove, to eat, how to properly dress, what time it is, how to get to places that used to be familiar and no longer are recognized. She cried, saying how much she wanted to go home. I pulled out her profile and started asking questions about things from her past that were happy times. We talked of parents, kids, grandkids, jobs, vacations. I told her how much we love her and having her there. I told her how much her family loves and cherishes her, and wanting her to be safe they entrusted us with her care each day. We talked of how this was like the perfect retirement because she no longer has to worry about cooking, cleaning, laundry etc., and can relax like a queen and be loved. I dried tears, walked with her to her room, and told her how much we love her and how she is such a bright spot in my life each shift. She was feeling much better when I left her to go to sleep with a hug and kiss. As I walked up the hallway I thanked God in a quick prayer, for showing me just why I do this job.
Yes, I am a ‘card carrying butt-wiper’, but I’m so much more than the person who cleans up old folks when they soil themselves (make no mistake this is very important to the embarrassed soul unable to do it themselves when they cannot make it to the bathroom quickly or simply didn’t realize it happened). I am:
- A housekeeper who makes their beds and straightens up their room
- A waitress who serves them each meal and snack with a smile on my face
- The person who washes and folds their clothing and puts it back in place
- The one who sets the table before each meal and helps them remember their favorite drink for the 3rd time that day because they cannot recall.
- The doer of dishes, sweeper and mopper of floors 3 times a day because shaky hands make lots of messes
- The person who answers the same question asked every 2 minutes, all day long, for the mind that has lost short term memory.
- The finder of lost eye glasses, hearing aides and dentures that have been removed by the resident and now they don’t remember what they did with these items
- The schedule keeper who gets them to their activities, dressed to go on outings with family
- An entertainer who dances in silly ways and sings off key to make them laugh
- A lady’s maid/gentleman’s valet who helps them choose clothing and get dressed
- The hand they hold when walking unsteadily or trying to get up from their seat
- The one who answers their call light for whatever their needs are, big and small
- The hand they hold when scared as the sun sets and their memories get worse and their minds play tricks on them
- The lady with the tissues to dry tears and hug them, making them feel loved when they cannot remember who they are or if they have family (even though they just left for the evening)
- The person who goes home second guessing herself over and over again wondering if I could have done more to make it a better day for the people in my care
- The one who prays for them day in and day out when their minds are failing them and they are scared, confused, or getting outwardly frustrated
- The one who changes their soiled garments, gently changes their clothes and holds their hands as they slip from this world and take their last breath
- The one who gently cleans them up and dresses them after they pass from this world, so that the family can come sit with their body and mourn without foul smells and have one last memory of mama or daddy looking at peace
- The one who has bonded with their families and loves on them, reassuring doubting minds and worried hearts.
- The one who hugs them as they leave their loved one’s side after the final goodbye and hands out the tissues, crying right along with them at the their loss because we will miss that sweet old soul too and part of us is now empty as well
The pay isn’t great, in fact we are the lowest paid folks in any facility who cares for our elderly, but we are the very foundation and backbone of the day to day operations. And I love my job and I’m so thankful for the trust families place in me to take care of their precious elderly loved ones. It is truly an honor.