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Words from a Nurse Aid, working with the elderly in Long Term Care:
I know can be hard to come visit. I know there are days that you are grieving, after a fashion - you can no longer take care of this person you loved, and you have decided to turn the care over to us... and sometimes, you're struggling...
I see it sometimes in your eyes. I hear it sometimes in your tone of voice, when you're tired. I watch you when you visit, and I read your face as I walk you to the door. You came to see a loved one - and that isn't easy every time. Some days I smile at your faithfulness, coming so regularly. Some days I wonder why it's been so long since you've come... Through over a year of knowing so many families - I watch you all and wonder...
I know... They aren't exactly the same person you remember. They don't have all the capabilities they used to. They need a lot more help than in the past. They are getting older. It's odd for you to see those changes, and know how to react all the time.
Perhaps you come to visit often - I applaud you for that - especially those of you who deal with difficulty. Maybe they cry when you leave - maybe they accuse you of abandoning them here - maybe they can't communicate well anymore... maybe... maybe they don't even remember who you are, or acknowledge you at all... But you come anyways.
You come and you love them. You talk to them, and give them hugs, and give them news about friends and other family. You bring them little things, and cart the children in to say hi. You tell them about your day, and ask them how they've been. You feed them if they need help. You sit by their bedside, and hold their hand. You treat them like family.
Thank you. Thank you for still coming - even those of you who are only semi regular.
To those of you who don't come much... Please...
They need you - they still need you...
You are their family. You are the ones who know what they like best. You are the ones who remember their history. You are the ones they spent years with. You are the anchor to their past. You are the ones they love. Even when they can't express it - they still need you. You are their family.
I will try my best to love your family when you aren't here. When they cry - I will give them a hug and make sure they know it will be okay. When they feel lonely - I will talk to them. If they get lost in the past, I will ask them questions, and let them tell me about things they used to love to do. When they make a mess - I will clean it for the thousandth time. When they are being unsafe, I will do my very best to keep them safe. When they don't want to eat dinner, or take a shower, or wear clean clothes, I will ask, re-ask, and try to give them the care they need. I will bear up under occasional bad attitudes, swear words, and the occasional hit headed my way. I will rejoice at their home-made crafts, good days, and little happinesses. I will have nonsense conversations where I don't know what they are talking about, but still I talk and listen. I will tease, sing, laugh, and smile to break up the monotony. I will notice little things about them, so if they aren't acting right, my Nurse will hear about it. I will be your family member's care giver in ways you can't be, and act as an echo of the love you are.
Most of us - we are here because we sincerely care about the elderly. We are here to serve... I know it's hard for you some days - but think of it this way - we're on the same team. We are both here to take care of this person you love - physically and emotionally. Please understand that I have other residents to care for - but I do care. I do know the needs of your person. I will try my very best to give them the attention they need. I'm not perfect - I make mistakes - I'm very busy - but I'm trying. I will do my very best by you, and by them.
At the end of the day, know this - you are still a very important part of your family member's life, and I respect your place in it. Please come and show them you care. They need you and I'm here to help.
~Ophelia - Marie