Hope. It is the balm that heals all the wounds that life inflicts upon humanity; that we inflict upon each other and ourselves. Hope is the driving force behind life. It is what keeps us going when we want to give up. Without it, where would we be? I was thinking about that last week, when my own chips were down; how much easier it was for me to handle the chaos of a really really bad week than it once was. All because I had hope that life would once again level out.
There was a period of my life when I had lost all hope for myself. It’s such a sick feeling, that sort of despair. It sucks the life out of you, turning the air around you into heavy shades of grey that rob you of the will to put one foot in front of the other. I wasn’t living in that phase of my life. I was existing, and barely that.
I am one of the lucky ones. I pulled through and landed on my feet. With the help and support of loved ones and ongoing effort on my part, my life has completely turned around. I was given a new perspective and renewed hope.
My biggest challenge and most painful experiences have become my greatest assets in this field. It is part of why I love it. I can in all honesty tell my folks that there is no such thing as hopeless and while life may be difficult, as long as they are breathing, it is more than worth it. They are bigger than their pain. In the world of Long Term Care, liabilities become assets; our own flaws and difficulties help us relate better to those for whom we care.
My case isn’t necessarily typical, but think about it. To whom are our residents more likely to relate? Those who sit in an office or have fewer obstacles, emotionally or financially or those of us who know what it is to struggle on a daily basis just to make ends meet?
Though it not possible to fully walk in another’s shoes, embracing the lessons we have learned by walking through our own pain can help us relate to our residents and, in doing so, help them lower their guard enough for us, as caregivers, to truly get to know them and vice versa.
To me, that is the real art in caregiving. Anyone can learn how to perform skills, but the gift of KNOWING people; of seeing past the obvious is at the heart of what we do. The best CNA’s I have worked with have all had a story, a struggle, a dynamic history that has made them especially gifted at this job.
We are given the unique opportunity to not only embrace our flaws, pain, losses, and obstacles but to put them to the best possible use, helping other human beings. What we do is real; it’s not about what looks good on paper. It’s about convincing a resident who is in great emotional pain to eat. It’s about listening when a resident is afraid or feels alone or is angry and attempting to understand the underlying cause of their pain in order to help ease it as much as we can in our capacity as caregivers. Who better to show our residents the light in the dark than those of us who are walking with them through it? So I say EMBRACE your flaws! Be grateful for the WORST of your experiences. Hold your past mistakes and the lessons you’ve learned from them close! Remember your tragedies while being mindful of the fact that you survived them. They make us more qualified to help those who are currently living through their own.