In this media moment of accusations and epithets, I would like to pause and acknowledge some hardworking citizens of the USA.
Caring for the extreme elderly is hard, and I use this blog post to praise Certified Nursing Assistants and home health aides–a largely female workforce that, despite being underpaid and overworked (therefore, on occasion, justifiably terse or grumpy) provides crucial assistance and genuine caring for human beings who can no longer manage full independence.
The nursing career has become a medical and social science that has sometimes more to do with observations, measurements, communications with physicians, and data entry than with assisting patients through touch, eye contact, and conversation. I have no criticism about the need for scholarship among today’s nursing force; in fact, my job permits me to work with many aspiring nurses as they pursue their studies, and I feel confident in these young people’s abilities. I just want to take a minute to thank CNAs, who do the majority of hands-on, personal helping of patients and at-home clients, especially in highly-populated regions with huge hospital networks.
Many CNAs are from lower-income backgrounds. Or they are recent immigrants. They willingly take on shift work and plenty of manual labor as they provide help for those who need it. They bathe patients, assist with bedpans, clean up when there is no bedpan, turn patients, monitor patients’ comfort levels, rub down fragile skin or sore muscles, all while managing to respect each person they care for as an individual human being. Even when they are ignored or treated like servants, when people (stressed, ill, or deeply anxious people) basically ignore them, don’t learn their names, resent their accents, these workers do their difficult jobs. And they smile at people.
Sometimes that smile is so needed–by a patient or a member of the patient’s family.
Bless you, folks. You are doing the kind of work every compassionate and ethical society needs in some way or another.