Kindness Doesn’t Cost a Thing

In all my years in this field I have never had a person in my care who did not respond better when approached consistently with kindness. Never, not one single time. My most resistant residents have been more willing to be an active participant in their own care when they didn’t feel invisible. My most confused residents had less anxiety clouding their minds when I have been able to coax a laugh from them. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing. It takes no more time to be kind than it does to be resentful and impatient and it takes far less energy.
“You’re going to spoil them”.
“Now they’re going to expect that from everyone.”
“Don’t get that one going. She’ll talk your ear off if you let her”…To which I politely smile and go about doing my job exactly as I see fit. Treating my folks the way I’d want to be treated is not “spoiling” them. It’s being good at my job. I give my best effort regardless of what it causes other people to expect. Quite frankly, I don’t care if that raises the bar or not. My work ethic does not include doing less for those in my care so they don’t expect it from other workers. And I don’t mind having my ear talked off. Why should my night owls feel lonely? If they want to talk and I’m not in the middle of a task, I have no problem listening.
The idea that the people in our care are tasks to be minimized and tackled begrudgingly has to be changed. Not every caregiver treats the job with such apathy; not even most, but there are more than enough that do. Rightly or wrongly, the majority of hard working and dedicated caregivers are stigmatized by the behavior of those who are not right for this field.
We are the frontline of Long Term Care. We are the faces most seen. When something goes wrong, we are the easiest to blame. People see the bad behavior of the caregiver and not the broken system that spawned it.
There is grace, value and purpose in this field. We are needed and trusted by those in our care. There is something sacred about that. If the system has beaten you down to the point of resenting those in your care and basic human kindness is too much to ask, then maybe it’s time to consider another field. As workers we don’t like to feel disposable or invisible so why would we treat our residents as little more than a burden? We can do better. We HAVE to do better…any lasting change that matters will begin with those of us who work the floors. We are the closest to the residents and we have a deeper understanding of the world through their eyes. All improvement begins from within, though, and before we change the system we have to change our attitude toward those who live within it.

2 thoughts on “Kindness Doesn’t Cost a Thing

  1. donona

    I WISH EVERY AIDE I KNOW, EVERY AIDE PERIOD, COULD READ THIS POST. (Hence the all-caps…I want to shout this!) I’m going to take this to the head of the nursing home I volunteer in. I hope she will think about how to get this message out. Alice, this is so important. You have found “grace, value and meaning” in your work and you give this to your residents. Thank you so much.

  2. Anonymous

    I surely agree with this one. I grew up in my father’s restaurant with a team of women who didn’t try to drag down hard working, dedicated workers. It was a rude awakening to work at an assisted living facility where other workers seemed to be threatened by someone who went the extra mile- not to say that all of them did that, but the one’ s who didn’t understand my motives made my work life very difficult.
    Sometimes people have a lot going on in their lives, I get that. But the workers who I usually got along better on the job were able to marry the business goals and client’s needs, as much as they could.
    To me, the moral issue is how well we treat these people, physically and emotionally, and it bothers me when something stands in the way of that.
    Recently, I had to leave a private caregiving position. I felt that the obstacles within the household, unreasonable expectations and the lack of support had taken it’s toll on me, which was affecting my relationship with the client. I got tired of fighting the tides, which was unfortunate, because I did a lot because I cared.
    The misplaced blame and criticism that I received were on some very petty issues, to the point where it was distracting me from my primary purpose and making me feel irritated way too much. I endured it from all fronts – even from the other caregiver. The husband was tough on me. The wife was tough on me- I expected that reaction more from the client given that she was the one who was disabled. I even understood some things from the husband, but one day, he put too many straws on the camel’s back.
    The crazy thing is that I knew that I did a good job, but it was getting to the point that I dreaded going there. And I hate to be lied to.
    I decided that I must not have the strength that it takes for this type of work, and that I would take care of the people who mean the most to me- my aging family members.
    Pass the baton.
    I seen many CNAs who have impressed me, who are able to get past the issues that I described. Kudos to them. I appreciate you people. You took care of my Uncle and Grandmother and I love you for it.


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