This has been on my mind a lot recently, so I wanted to share my thoughts…
I’ve never (I don’t believe) mentioned it here on my blog, but I worked for three years in the Nursing and Assisted Living Units of a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) in Northern Virginia. I worked there during the nearly four years I was moonlighting as a wedding planner, until this summer when the wedding business closed down and I left the retirement community to go full-time in the interior design industry.
At the retirement community I was basically a Kindergarten teacher- I worked in the activities and recreation department, and I mainly oversaw the daily schedule of the nursing unit. It was a remarkable, life changing experience which I would like to write about more in-depth at some point. But for now, I would just like talk about one thing: please be kind to the health care workers who are taking care of your parents, your loved ones, your aunts and uncles, etc.
Over the course of the three years I worked at the retirement community, I formed strong friendships with several residents and family members. I cried more at death of one of my residents than I did for my own grandparents. Spending 40+ hours a week with someone, watching them slowly deteriorate before your eyes, holding their hand while they drift off to the next life since they have no family members there… all that will do that to you.
One of the most disheartening experiences I had during this time period was dealing with mean, nasty, rude, you name it, family members. It was usually daughters or daughters-in-law, but occasionally there would be a jerk son or grandson. I don’t understand this. I know it is an emotional time for people, watching their parents transform into someone they don’t physically or mentally recognize. But, please people, be nice to the healthcare workers-the nurses and the CNAs who are there around the clock, wiping your loved one’s behind and trimming their chin hairs. It is not a glamorous job. They do it because (most of them) love helping people. Don’t be a jerk to them.
Thankfully, me working in the recreation department, family members usually loved my team because we were the fun department. We ran bingo and had ice cream socials. We watched movies and brought in great (and not so great) musicians to perform to the residents. We put on a happy hour every Friday afternoon.
Sadly, I witnessed family members screaming, berating and being down right awful to the nursing staff. And then there were the ones who were lovely. Who were SO thankful and beyond appreciative for what the nursing staff did for their parents. They went out of their way to let the higher-ups know what a great job the nursing staff was doing.
Image for a second, being a nurse and two of your residents press their call bells at the same time. Who do you go to first? The one whose daughter gave you a big hug when she last came to visit, or the one whose son yelled racial epithets at you? It’s a no brainer. For the sake of your loved ones at least, be kind to the nursing staff. Fake it if you have to.
Oftentimes I would be gathering my residents for an activity (a good majority of them were in wheel chairs, and if I didn’t physically go get them, they wouldn’t come), and there would get to a point where either the room would be getting too full or I was plain worn out from having pushed fifteen wheelchairs around the building, and I physically/ mentally had room for one more resident. If there were two residents that I could possibly take, you better believe I would not take the resident whose daughter had just pulled her mother’s chart out of the nurse’s hands and ripped it up. I would get someone whose son always smiled at me when I passed him in the hallway.
Please be kind.