I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

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Alice

I miss my co-workers. I miss sharing rueful smiles over our resident’s antics and commiserating over management’s ineptness. There is a bond between caregivers forged from shared experiences. Everyone may not get along but we all speak the same language. I didn’t realize how much that comradery added to my whole caregiving experience until it was gone.

The joy of working together as a team can get lost amidst the gossip, frustrations and general bitchiness that is often a by-product of short-staffing, poor communication, low wages and mismanagement. I am as guilty as anyone of bemoaning the poor work ethic of others when I was working in a facility. Laziness of others takes its toll on those who are not lazy in our field. On the best of days, it’s hard work and when I felt “saddled” with a caregiver who was not invested, I adopted an attitude of either help me or get out of my way. I took for granted the peace of mind that comes from working with someone else who GETS it, even in the most basic ways.

This jaunt into private care has taught me that caregiving can be lonely business. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, I know now not to take for granted my co-workers in whatever future facility I may find myself employed. I’ve written in previous posts about some of the more positive aspects of working one on one with a client. There is much that I am enjoying about this aspect of caregiving but I do find it lonely. If my client is tired, or cranky or has a day when she just doesn’t want to be bothered with me, I have to take a deep breath and make it work. There is no other option. Like it or not, I’m what you’ve got for the next twelve hours. I have been lucky on that front. There have been very few bad days with either of the clients that I’ve worked with so far but I do know that it is an inevitability. Working so closely with people in a vulnerable state is a dance and sometimes we accidentally step on each other’s toes. In a facility, if a resident doesn’t want to work with you, there are other caregivers who can step up to the plate and vice versa. It was often a flawed team but it was a team nonetheless and one way or another, the work would be completed before the end of shift.

No one can fully understand what it is like to walk with someone through their most difficult days unless they have done it themselves. We see the humor in body fluids. We see the end results of a broken system. We see the people in our care fight their way forward despite that. We see death, but more importantly we see LIFE. Sometimes I wonder if our most important job is to remind those in our care that although they think they are headed towards death, they are not there yet; to remind them that as long as they are breathing, they have value in this world. The family members usually can’t see this because they are too close to the situation. Until I started in private care, I thought it was selfishness. It’s not. It’s an inability to detach from the mental image of how it “used to be”. It’s thoughtless maybe, but it’s human. I do miss working with others who get that; who understand the heart of caregiving even if they don’t express it in words. This shared core of experience between caregivers has been an incredibly valuable tool for me in the battle against cynicism that often muddies my vision of what I believe caregiving can and should be. It took being away from my co-workers to realize how big a part they played in helping me develop as a caregiver and on the occasions when I would fall, it was they who helped me back on my feet. On the tough days, it’s good to know that there is power in numbers and we are not alone.

 

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