Category Archives: patience

Respect Your Elders

Sunflower May

At times, it’s really hard to be professional. No, strike that––sometimes it’s really hard to be nice. This is one of those times I really wish I could just open my mouth and…well.
Breathe. Breathe and move on. Do not respond. Do not reply. This is neither the place nor the time for such a discussion. You aren’t calm enough not to scream, so don’t say anything. Prove him wrong with your actions. I keep thinking these words until I wonder if they’ve been seared onto the inside of my eyelids from the sheer force of repetition. It’s hard because I have to be professional and they can be whatever they want to, even if that’s unkind.

All this started because Mrs. L’s husband had come over for a visit. And he is a man with Opinions. He’s not one to keep them to himself either…and I could perhaps forgive him his outspokenness if I wasn’t the target of his outrage. Or I should say, one of the targets. Today, Mr. L has Opinions about Millennials.
“Man, kid these days,” he rants to his wife, ignoring me as I labor to make her bed behind him. “What idiots. When we were kids, man, I tell you, nobody was so selfish. They just want everything handed to them. Afraid of hard work, that’s what they are.”
I’m putting the pillowcase on as he says these words and I am so tempted to…no. Absolutely not, May, that is utterly unacceptable behavior. You are not allowed to even think that. Never mind that I’ve been hard at work for five hours already today, with seven more to go. Never mind that I’m in overtime for the umpteenth week in a row. Never mind that I haven’t had a break or a breather since I clocked in. Never mind…
“What is this world coming to?” he muses. “These kids are crazy and they don’t know nothing. Everything wrong in this world is because of them, I think. When we were young, we were taught to respect our elders, but I wouldn’t trust a dog with these so-called Millennials. What a disgrace––”
I can’t take this anymore. I dart around Mr. and Mrs. L, leaving the bed half-made and escape into the hallway.
No, he didn’t trust a dog to a Millennial. It was his wife he entrusted to my care. Many of the CNAs and nurses I work with are among the Millennial generation and we are the front-line of Long-Term Care. We make up a large percentage direct care workers.
I lean back against the wall, fighting tears. They’re tears of rage, but I really can’t afford to shed them right now. I am the caregiver and this isn’t the time to be emotional.

One day, I might have Mr. L or someone like him as my resident. His dignity will be left in my care, to either affirm and defend, or ignore and abuse. I wonder if he realizes that, as he rants and raves about the sins of my generation.
When you are weak and helpless, crippled and confused, I will be there, I think. And when you are my resident, then maybe you will see. Maybe you won’t…but either way,
I will take damn good care of you, whether you want me to or not. I will be your advocate and I will be your caregiver. I will fight as hard for your dignity as I fight for the gentleman down the hall, who I absolutely adore. You cannot change my compassion and you cannot change my professionalism.

I am a caregiver. I am a Millennial. And I think I am calm enough to go back into that room to finish making the bed.
When I do, it’s to see the strangest scene. Mr and Mrs L are glaring at each other; he looks surprised and she looks angry. They break it off when they realize I’m back.
“Oh, hello, sweetie,” Mrs. L says to me. “Do you know, you are my favorite aide. I don’t know how you do all the work you do. Especially,” she adds with a pointed look at her husband, “since you’re so young.”

Worth the Hassle: the Importance of Training

Sunflower

May

“I hate training!” says my coworker. “I really, really hate it. I mean, all it does is slow you down! I can’t get my work done while somebody’s following me around like a puppy. It’s just a hassle.”

“I get your point,” I say slowly…and I do. I really do. Training slows you down. You’ve got to stop and explain everything that has become muscle memory or second nature to you. You’ve got to watch people try to do things the wrong way, the way you’ve learned is no good. You have to hear all these “new ideas” that you’ve heard a thousand times before. You’ve got to watch the shock roll through the new person, as they stumble upon the grief, the horror and the frustrations that still eat away at you.

You’ve got to be patient.

And that is much easier said than done! It’s hard to be patient; it’s hard to let go of that frantic timer inside our heads. It’s hard to take the time to explain everything the right way. It’s just plain hard to find time, period. And it’s a bit discouraging: to take all the time out for the newbies, to be patient and then to have so many newbies just walk away…often without giving notice.

All that time and energy you invested in them: gone and all for nothing. Oh well. Try again and better luck next time.

Is it any wonder that so many aides just say: “Screw the next time! Why bother?” Yeah…I get her point. Training is quite a hassle, when you put it like that. And yet–and yet, even while I get her point, I can’t agree with her.

Attitudes like that are the reason so many new aides are left to flounder. It’s sink or swim in the nursing home; if you’re not perfect right off the bat it’s out the door with you! How many potential good aides do we bury under the  never-ending landslide? How many potential good aides walk away in a fit of frustration?

How many potential advocates do we silence in our own impatience?

Yeah, training takes time and energy…time and energy we often don’t actually have. True, not every newbie I train is going to stick with it; not every newbie I train is actually going to be worth the effort of training. But for the ones that are good, for the ones who stay, the ones who will become advocates and caregivers of quality…

Oh, yeah. You are definitely worth the hassle. Please come. Please bear with me as I try to snatch the time to dance on the ropes of long term care so you don’t fall.

 

A Teachable Moment

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Alice

        Private Care is kind of like a weird Tim Burton version of Mary Poppins, except instead of love starved, dysfunctional children, I’ve got an elderly couple who have been married for nearly fifty years.
Technically, only one of them is my client but the fact is it’s a dance. As I am working independently, any work boundaries that need to be set have to come from me and setting and accepting my own limits in a work environment is an area in which I sorely lack.
I don’t like to rush my client. It is quite simply my favorite part of home care. If she wants to take an hour to brush her teeth, she can! The shifts are long and we have the time. I fail miserably at curling and teasing her hair and helping her with her make up, but the end result isn’t nearly as important to her as the fact that I’m willing to try. The trouble comes when her husband feels the need to rush. If I don’t act quickly, he’s a bundle of nerves and then she’s a bundle of nerves and then HELLLLOOOO ANXIETY, as I try desperately to keep everyone happy while maintaining an air of serenity.

I find myself tip toeing on that line of co-dependency far too often. Staying late and coming early, letting those little bits of time go without mentioning pay, cooking for their children and grandchildren on occasion, it does add up. I’m learning though, and not just how to be a better cook either. For one thing, I’m negotiating with myself. I like it when my client’s family comes to visit. It fills her with pure joy, like turning on an inner light switch. I am willing to cook for ten and clean up after for my client to have those moments. It gives me joy too. But then I have to put on my big girl pants and have that oh so scary conversation about being compensated for the hours that I stay late or come early. That’s the deal. Some things, I am learning to bend on and others I have to stand firm.

I’m learning how to teach someone who doesn’t even realize he’s a student. I love that!
“You have to speed her up. Sometimes she needs reminding that she’s handicap.” Her husband said to me one day. I explained to him that my job is to do all that I can to make it so she feels LESS powerless over her condition and owned by her limitations, not to remind her of them. He was quiet and for minute I thought I was in for it.

“You know, I never thought of it like that before.”  It was a teachable moment for both of us. I forget sometimes that not everyone can see what is obvious to me after working in this field for a few years.

Often I miss facility work. I felt more at home with the pace and home health can be very lonely. It’s long days with only the client and her husband to interact with. So much is dependent on moods. If her husband is in a bad mood, it throws my client off too and then I’m in for a long and uncomfortable fourteen hours. But it definitely isn’t boring, as I thought it would be. There is plenty to do and learn. I feel like I’m still exploring the parameters of my job in this area of the field.

Do I want to be in private care in a year? No. But for now that doesn’t matter. This is where I landed and this is where I’m needed. At least I’m not in Long Island!

Call lights and promises

Sunflower

May

“Hey! Hey! Little girl!”
I’d mutter ‘what have I done now’…except I already know in this case. I seem to have perfect recall today: perfect recall and terrible timing.
Instead of going into the room, I turn and sprint the opposite way. Maybe I should turn off the call light first, but I don’t want to take another chance. No way.

Mr. C has taken to repeatedly pushing the button by the time I get back. I’m sure it makes him feel better, but it doesn’t do anything to the light. “Call light” is a bit of a misnomer, I’ve always felt. Sure, there’s a bulb lit up above his door…but the real attention getter is that incessant, irritating noise. Beep-beep-beep. I hear that sound in my dreams–not exactly as a nightmare, but rather my subconscious echoing with the sound I hear way too much. Beep-beep-beep. It’s the sound of promises I need to make, or reminders of the promises I’ve broken.
Like now.

Mr. C glares at the steaming cup in my hand.
“What the hell is that?” he demands as I switch off the call light. There’s peace for one blissful second…then, another call light goes off. Beep-beep-beep. How many more hours until shift change? One hour and four minutes.
“This? This is the cup of coffee I promised you,” I reply.
“Oh, the cup of coffee you promised to get me after breakfast?”
“After breakfast is such a wonderfully vague time-”
“-no, it’s not-”
“-as, technically, it is still ‘after breakfast’ and will be…until they bring up the trays tomorrow morning.”
I smile brightly at him; Mr. C glowers back. Okay, so this isn’t a laughing matter yet.
“Look, I’m really sorry I forgot. For what it’s worth, at least I remembered what I forgot. It’s been cr…it’s not been my day today.” It takes everything I have to pull the rest of that sentence in, but an apology isn’t really an apology with an excuse riding shotgun.
Another call light adds to the madness outside this room. One hour and one minute.
Mr. C sucks down his first sip. “Ah, that’s good stuff,” he sighs.
“I thought you weren’t fond of our coffee.”
“Anticipation equals appreciation…today. Well, go get your call lights, little girl. Those people out there aren’t as patient as I am, you know. Oh, could you get me a cookie? And specific, non-vague deadline for completing the task?”
“Yes, I’ll get you a cookie. Two cookies…before I go home.”
“Before you go home today?” he asks suspiciously.
I wave my hand at him, then rush to answer the nearest call light. I make a lot of promises during my shift; it’s like riding herd on a whole zoo. Some promises inevitably slither, fly or bound away…after all, there’s only one of me and a lot of them and their call lights.
That’s why I’m so passionate about adequate staff ratios: the fewer residents I have and the more help we have, the fewer promises I break.

It’s the thought that counts…

Sunflower
May

“When someone asks me what I did today, I think I’ll skip this part,” I annouce. I’m a bit upside down, so it comes out slightly muffled.
Mr. G grins.
It’s not really his fault; it’s also definitely not mine. The people to blame is outside the shower room, blissfully making his bed. They have no idea that I’m down on my knees and twisted so that I can reach under the shower chair. Even though I had a stroke of common sense and turned off the water, the floor is still sopping wet and therefore so am I.
It’s not helping my attitude.
“They were trying to help you,” Mr. G reminds me. He sounds like he’s enjoying this far too much. He’s right, I know. The two new aides that I’m working with tonight decided to show initiative: while I was finishing up my first shower, they got Mr. G ready and up in the shower chair. When I opened the shower door to let my other shower go out, I was surprised to see Mr. G waiting for me, already in the shower chair. Beside him was Newbie #1 with a big grin on her face.
I almost cried. Now that’s what I call team work.
Then I started giving him the shower.
I almost cried. Now that’s what I call a problem.

The Problem of course being that the geniuses out there forgot to remove the brief before they transferred him into the shower chair. They unfastened it, tucked it even, and then apparently forgot about it–because the brief is still there, hidden from view until I squatted down to scrub his bottom. The shower pads for the hoyer lift have a hole in them so…well, so that the resident’s bottom is exposed so you can clean it. Same principal goes for the shower chair. Two holes that line up so you can scrub the bottom. But when I squatted down, I didn’t see a bare bottom. I saw a brief so completely saturated that it was beginning to burst and shed crystals all over the shower room floor…crystals that had previously been bits of fluff and filler bounded to urine and soapy water.
Mr. G, a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces, gasped at my choice of words to describe the situation.

I’m completely soaked by the time I finish cleaning up the floor: what little of me didn’t get wet from the floor was taken care of by the sweat that’s pouring off me.
“They were trying to help,” Mr. G repeats. He’s said it a lot.
“I’m not going to yell at them,” I sigh.
“You better not. At least they did something without being asked, even if they did it…er…”
“Half-assed?” I suggest.
“Just remember,” he tells me, ignoring the lame pun, “that experience only comes from making mistakes and cleaning up messes.”
“Or making a mistake that somebody else has to clean up,” I mutter, but I know he’s right. what is a mess in the shower room compared to an aide with initiative? That quality is more precious than gold and I’d be a fool to squash it. If I yell, the lesson they’ll probably learn is Don’t help May. “All right. I won’t fuss. I am going to have to give your back half a bed bath, though. It’s…not what you’d call clean.”
“You think?”

I push him back into his room and pull the call light. While I’m waiting, I assemble the supplies for a bed bath. It isn’t long before both Newbies arrive with the hoyer.
“Er…May, why do you have all that?” they ask. “And why are you sopping wet?”
I glance at Mr. G before I turn back to them with a blazing smile. “Thank you two so much for getting him ready for me. That was really very kind. If I could offer a tip, you may want to double check that you removed the brief next time. Apparently, it makes an ungodly mess. But on the other hand, the shower room needed to be deep-cleaned and I think we can check that off the list now. Seriously though, I really appreciate your help with him.”

No team is perfect and mistakes happen. Sometimes you’re the one making the mistake and sometimes you’re the one cleaning it up. Either way, a little grace and kindness go a long way.
And everything’s better with a dash of humor.

Endurance

May

Endurance

It started out as a simple request: “Hey honey, can you get me a coffee?”
Then everyone else at her table realized their drinks needed refilling and here I am, reciting a beverage order as I walk into the pantry, trying to keep straight which drink goes to which of the four residents.

Inside the pantry, I assemble the drink order and pick them up: a hot chocolate and a cream-and-sugar coffee clutched in one hand, the two black coffees in the other. I maybe should take two trips, but I haven’t been a CNA for over five years without learning how to wrap my fingers around multiple cup handles at once. Or without learning to prop the pantry door open.

I’m on my way back, eyes focused on the hot liquid sloshing around the precariously held cups when I hear a voice I vaguely recognize, a voice I haven’t heard in a while.
“May?”
I stop first, then look up. The voice belongs to a face that is also familiar: an old coworker. It takes me a good moment to come up with her name…after all, it’s been a good year since she quit and well, I have a lot of ex-coworkers.
“Cindy? Whatcha doing here?” I ask. She was a pretty good aide and she actually gave a notice before she quit, so I add: “Good to see you; you doing well?”
“Yep, I’m great,” she says. “Just visiting. Thought it was time…I can’t believe you’re still here.”
I shrug as best I can with cups of hot liquid in my hands. “Yeah, you know, I still like, so….”
It’s an odd conversation, odder still to be having with someone who left while I stayed. Speaking of odd, Cindy gives me this strangely intent look, like she’s going to say something important. It’s the kind of pause that you just can’t walk away from. Steam rises from the drinks as we both wait on her words.
“It’s funny,” she says finally. “People come and go so quickly around nursing homes, but you endure. You’re still here…and still smiling. Anyway, you look busy, so I’ll leave you to it.”
Then she darts off and I’m left staring after her. I shake my head and continue on my way. What an odd end for an odd conversation and yet as my day goes on, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It’s still there, echoing but never fading: “You endure.” What an interesting word choice!

The oddest thing is, I’ve never thought of it like that. Never phrased it like that, in my head or in my writing. I endure.
It almost seems…bombastic for describing getting up and going to work day after day, one day at a time, as those days quietly gather into years. I’m not quite sure if the “enduring” she spoke of was in reference to being “still here” or “still smiling”, or both.
Either way, saying that I’ve endured makes it seem…heroic. A hard-won accomplishment.

If it’s heroism, then it’s a quiet sort of heroism–the kind that doesn’t lend itself well to fanfare or fame. Instead, when it receives attention at all, it comes in the form of slight surprise and a mild kind of awe.
And that’s okay, I don’t need fanfare or trumpets or applause. Quiet respect for quiet heroism is, well, rather nice. That recognition of my hard work and stubbornly-held smile is going to be with me a while, I think.

Now it’s back to enduring.

Do the right thing, part one

May

It’s the middle of the lunch rush and I have a problem. Mrs. A needs to go to the bathroom.
Well, that’s not quite right. My problem is that Mrs. A desperately needs to go, but she’s having trouble standing up. I’m having trouble supporting her; between the two of us, we can hardly get her bottom off the chair. I seriously don’t know how I’m going to her fully upright, or on the pot.
Again, that’s not fully true. The solution to my current problem is obvious…and right outside the door: the standing lift. Unfortunately, it’s a solution that just brings more problems: in my work place, all mechanical lifts are two-person devices. Using one by yourself is considered unsafe and grounds for immediate termination; we’re also a no-lift facility. If a resident requires lifting, we get the lift and someone to help us. It’s a policy designed to reduce CNA injuries, a policy I applaud.
But right now I have no help and a resident who desperately needs toileting. To make matters worse, her son is in the room, impatiently waiting…he’s never been particularly sympathetic or empathetic to us caregivers. I get the impression that he regards us as little more than vending machines of care. Press C5 for toileting needs, B3 for pain pills. Never mind that I’m not a nurse and can’t give out pills.
“All right, Mrs. A,” I say, “let’s try this one more time.” I’m hoping that she’ll stand up just fine, that my last attempt was a fluke or a test of patience, or something.
It’s not. This woman isn’t going to stand up without strenuous help from me. I know that I can do it, physically. I can pick her up in a bear-hug, wiggle the pants down and get her on the commode. It’s not her fault I have no help and she shouldn’t be punished for something she can’t help.

I do the right thing. I take her back out of the bathroom and explain that I’ll need to go get help. I explain that it might be a moment before I find that help and then I leave, avoiding the son’s irate glare.
After five solid minutes of looking, the first person I find is my nurse, hurrying off the hall.
“Hey, can you help me for a minute?” I ask.
“Can’t. Someone just fell in the dining room. Gotta go.”
Well, darn, I think. Just then a chair alarm sounds and I take off. Mr. W is attempting to put himself on the toilet…at least he can transfer, I think. He’s not very trust-worthy about pulling the call-light when he’s done, so I have to stay with him until he’s done.
Ten minutes later, I emerge back on to the hall, just in time to see my hall partner come out of Mrs. A’s room.
“Oh, good,” I sigh. “I’ve been looking for you. Mrs. A…”
“Is already taken care of,” the other aide interrupts.
“Oh, she stood up okay for you? I was having trouble–”
“So am I, working with a damn by-the-book aide. When are you going to learn, May, that you can’t be such a rule-follower if you expect to get the job done? If you have to pick somebody up, you pick them up. By the way, she’s soaked.”
With that, she walks off and I’m left with another problem. Mrs. A is on the toilet, sure, but I very much doubt that the other aide is going to help me get her off.

I’m right again. Not only is Mrs. A’s son visibly furious with me, Mrs. A is just as weak as she was fifteen minutes ago. And in tears. And soaked with urine.
Damn.
I change her clothes and pull the call-light for help. If I’m honest, I’m furious myself: angry at being called “by-the-book” when I was only trying to protect myself and Mrs. A. I did the right thing, not the selfish thing, as the other aide was implying.
Seven minutes pass before the bathroom door opens.

It’s my supervisor.

A Start

May

It sits in front of me, wrapped in gray paper with the words “Happy CNA week!” scrawled across it. It was given to me by my supervisor, along with the words “thank you”.
I don’t know what’s inside…I haven’t had a chance to open it until just now, hours after it was given to me. Too many call lights going off, too much to do. Some would say that this is the prettily-packaged perception that the facility wants to present going smash against the reality of what a nursing home is really like.
It’s just a small gesture, after all, doesn’t change anything…right?
It’s just a gesture, offered once a year, doesn’t balance the scales…right?

Except…the last place I worked never celebrated CNA week. There were no gifts, no cookouts, no free candy. Nothing. No gestures.

I start ripping the paper off like a little kid at Christmas. Gestures can’t be measure by how large they are, but by how genuine they are…and this one feels pretty damn genuine. The “thank you” was sincere. It’s not my supervisor’s fault I’ve had a lousy day on the floor; it’s not my facility’s fault that the rules are stacked the way they are. We’ll never win the fight if we fixate on the wrong bad guys. We’ll never get anything more than small gestures if we don’t say “thank you” too.
My place is trying. That’s enough–or rather, that’s a start.

Mistaken for Mother

May

“Mother!!!”
Mrs. Q grimaces. “Can’t you shut her up?” she asks me, exasperation written all over her face. And I get it…oh, how I get it. Just across the hall, Mrs. W has been screaming variations of “Mother!” and “Help!”–in what seem to be increasing decibels–for a long time. Both my patience and my nerves are shot to hell. It doesn’t help that everyone else, including the other residents, are in the same state as me. Everyone is riled up, frustrated and exasperated. I just want to march in that room and…
Instead I unload my own exasperation on Mrs. Q.
“No, I can’t ‘shut her up,'” I say frostily. “She won’t calm down and you know I can’t make her.”
“Go get her mother–that’s who she’s yelling for.”
“Mrs. W is older than you are,” I tell her. “For obvious reasons, I can’t fetch her mother.”
“Oh. Well, do something,” she snaps in reply. “Why should I have to sit here and listen to that?”
Ordinarily, Mrs. Q is a wonderfully sympathetic neighbor. Ordinarily, I am an empathic caregiver. Deep down, under the frayed nerves, I wonder if this is some kind of test we’ve both failed. I sigh, then turn on my heel and march into Mrs. W’s room. They say third time’s the charm, right?

“Mother!!”
Mrs. W’s eyes are wide-open, darting all over the room. Her breath is shallow, panting; she’s clearly frightened and, if I had to guess, doesn’t know where she is, when she is…maybe even who she is. Her terrified gaze catches me and locks on. “Mother!” she cries again, her hands grasping at mine. “Oh, mother I’m so scared.”
I don’t disabuse her of my mistaken identity. I just sit down on the edge of the bed and let her cradle my hands to her sweating face.
“Oh, mother I’m so glad you’re here,” she sobs.
It’s hard to stay hard-hearted around such naked fear; it’s hard to feel frustrated with someone when your presence brings them such profound relief. Even though I’m not who she thinks I am…
“Don’t leave me, mother,” she begs, squeezing my hands.
“Hey, it’s okay,” I tell her. “I’m here, I’ve got you. You’re okay. I’m gonna stay right here until you calm down, okay?” It’s a fine line I’m not crossing, neither confirming nor denying that I’m her mother. Truthfully, I honestly don’t care: let her see whatever face brings her the most comfort. I’m in the wrong field for giving credit where it’s due anyway.
“You won’t leave me?” she sniffles, finally–it seems–beginning to calm down.”
“Not for a bit. And when I do have to leave this room, I’ll be just out in the hall. Not far away.”
“Okay,” she says. “But can’t you sit here with me for a minute?”
I smile at her and nod my head…mothers aren’t the only ones in charge of keeping the monsters away. As she grows steadily calmer and quieter, I glance across the hall to Mrs. Q’s room. She’s smiling and, when she catches my eye, she waves cheerfully at me.

Peace restored…to this section of the hall.

Human too

Sunflower

May 

“Oh, never mind about her, she’s not important; she’s just the aide.”

It’s surprising at times, how context defines how much a certain set of words can hurt us. I’ve heard those words from so many people: a stranger, a nurse, a visiting doctor, a State inspector, myself…and yet it hurts the most coming from this person, in this context. Coming from another, these words would sting, but coming from my resident, it’s a slap in the face. I feel like I have been physically abused by this sentence…as though it’s constituent syllables were fists pounding in the message.

“She’s not important; she’s just the aide.”

The resident continues on her conversation with her visitors and I’m still standing here, moving quickly from shock to anger. I have half a mind to throw down the glass of water I’m carrying and just walk away. I can’t, I know. For one, it would be unprofessional; for another I literally can’t. There’s not enough space in this room to properly storm out, especially not with all these visitors milling about. That’s what started this particular episode–this resident’s room mate asked me to fetch her insulated cup (and other assorted items) from her room, as she hadn’t been able to get in her room with the people crowding the door. To reach it, I had to squeeze around too many people crammed in too small a space–of course the resident unable to enter the room would have the second bed, farther from the door. Some of the visitors had recognized my predicament and had suggested they move this visit from the room to somewhere with a little more space so they wouldn’t be in my way so much. That’s when my resident, who I have known and sweated buckets for a long time now, declared that I and my inconvenience were not important.

She’s not important; she’s just an aide.”

How long until I stop hearing these words reverberate inside my skull? The visitors have the grace to look uncomfortable…but they don’t say anything. I am alone here. I stalk to the bathroom to fill up the cup and when the door swings shut behind me, I allow myself my anger. I’m human too, after all. Not a robot or even a one-dimensional “aide”, whatever Mrs. ___ in there imagines that to be. It just hurts to be valued so little by the resident I fight for everyday. I come in to work when I don’t really want, work a crap-ton of over-time–all so she can have the highest quality care. I struggle to hang on to the qualities of compassion and empathy on this battlefield of exhaustion and stressors–all for her and my other residents. Doesn’t she care? I know she sees. How can she not?

Mrs. S is still waiting for her ice water, I realize, and I’m hiding out in a bathroom with people I’m struggling not to see as the enemy right outside the door. I take a deep breath and push my way out of the room. I’ll have to come back in here later, I know. I’ll have to continue to provide her with the highest quality care despite the hurt she’s just inflicted. That’s my job and I do my job. Doesn’t mean I won’t report this incident to my supervisor. She might not be able to do anything about the treating the staff like crap, but she’ll certainly have a conversation with Mrs. ___ about her disregard for her room mate’s right to enter her own room. Mrs. S is still where I left her in the hall and almost ridiculously happy to see her insulated cup–a Christmas gift from her son, I remember. “Oh, thank you, thank you!” she cries, before taking a very long drink. “Don’t know what I’d do without you,” she says when she comes up for air.

“Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

I think I’ll hang on to these words instead. I like the way they make me feel needed and valued. Hey, I’m human too.