Giving Thanks for Professional Caregivers

365 Messages of Hope, Humor & Heart for Caregivers – #9

gratitude-professional-caregiversAt a conference for professional caregivers, I had the opportunity to speak with two young men who worked as CNA’s in a skilled nursing facility. When I asked, “What is the most rewarding part of your work?”

Without hesitation, one man said, “When I get a resident to smile.” The other man nodded in agreement.

It made me think about the last several weeks of my dad’s life. Although his prostate cancer had spread throughout his body, it was a terrible fall that finally put him in the nursing home. He had broken seven ribs and punctured his lung.

I flew home to help my mother move Dad from the hospital into long-term care. That night when I wheeled him into the dining room and took him to a table where all of the residents needed assistance eating, I thought my heart would break. As soon as an aid came to take over the feeding, I ran to my car and sobbed.

Later that night as I walked down the country road next to my parents’ farm, I begged God to take him. Actually, I didn’t pray – I begged, “Dear God, Please let this end! Stop his suffering! Let him die, and let my mother get some rest!”

I realize now that while I was having my emotional melt down in the car, there was an aid who was probably regaling my dad with stories about her children or pets, or anything else that would keep him entertained as she lifted the fork to his mouth and waited for him to chew and swallow.

While I was walking down the road begging for Dad’s life to end, a male CNA may have been talking about hunting, fishing or farming while they helped him out of his clothes and into his pajamas. Sometime during the night a nurse would have checked in to make sure his medication was keeping his pain under control.

No one in that nursing home was praying for my dad to die. They were concerned about keeping him fed, keeping him engaged socially, and keeping him pain free.

Today I am feeling deep gratitude for the people who cared for my dad and for every other professional caregiver who is committed to caring for the elderly, the frail and chronically ill. There are a lot of bad things in this world, but as long as there are professional caregivers who think the ultimate reward is getting a patient or a resident to smile, I think there is hope for humanity.