My name is Kathryn Jenkins and I’m an assistant in nursing working in a high care nursing home. After work a few months ago, I wrote this as an insight into an everyday shift as a carer. I want to pass it on so that awareness can be brought to our elderly residents. I want to raise knowledge about the lack of resources and funding we receive in nursing homes.
It’s 2:30pm, the call bells start ringing as I make my way down the hall ready to start my shift. I look up and see many different room numbers appear. I attempt to set up my trolley, while the morning staff attend to those residents who are in need. Some of the morning staff choose not to attend, so I rush to those in need, already picking up a sweat so soon into my shift. As I go back and forth between residents, I set up my trolley with all I need: gloves, wipes, sheets, slide-sheets, draw-sheets, towels, face-washers, blankets, and more… Once morning staff leave, there are two of us left on the floor. [Kathryn, right]
We are the carers.
We begin to toilet residents and put some to bed, stopping for nothing. As an hour passes so quickly, we rush to fill in our paperwork if possible, before listening to handover. I listen to handover carefully, concerning my mind with thoughts of sadness. These residents are the strongest and most beautiful people I have ever come across. They are old and frail and most wise. They deserve the utmost respect, they deserve to be loved abundantly and so ever delicately.
As handover continues, I hear about pain being inflicted on my old and frail and most wise residents. I hear about their tender cries and pleas for anything but what they have now. And I hear about the ones we’ve lost, that have flown away to heaven. Truthfully, it is better for them, they are finally at rest.
As handover finishes, I look to my partner who I have been allocated to and speak a few words of instruction.
Then we begin. We are the carers and we are ready to go.
We begin putting residents to bed. Though authority has spoken and some residents are not allowed to go to bed, even if they choose. I think to myself, this is their home … how is this right? I tend to sigh a lot lately – I sigh now.
After another hour has passed, my partner and I have worked quickly to put some residents into bed and attend to any other needs. My old and frail and most wise residents deserve all the time in the world, they deserve to be loved abundantly and so ever delicately. I cannot give them that, there is not enough time. No, there is not enough staff. In the utmost respectful way of saying this, it is disgraceful. It hurts me, I bet it hurts them. Rules also hurt both of us, the residents and the carers. My poor, old and frail and most wise residents. Oh, how truly sorry I am. I feel as though some don’t know how strong and beautiful you are. I feel as though some don’t give you the tender care and love you need and deserve. I know they don’t, for they are blind. If only they knew. If only they felt it too. The pain that is inflicted on my loved ones. For you, my residents, are like my family. I love you like my own. I dedicate all my tender care and love to you, I promise.
After I return from my break, it’s dinner time. We all must work quickly to deliver dinner to the residents. We serve, we feed, we clean. At this point in time, I regain energy and strength to continue on for the rest of the night.
As my partner and I meet once more, we continue on with putting the residents to bed and attending to all their needs. Well, all we can attend to. Rarely do we beat the time on the clock. Rarely do we have enough time before it is too late to help you, my dear residents. I want to though. I want to give each one of you what you deserve and it breaks my heart that I cannot.
After my dinner break and after my partner finishes their shift and goes home, it’s usually time to continue answering call bells and attending to the residents. But demands are high and we must finish our paperwork that is usually never completed, due to lack of time. It all apparently comes down to time… Not really though, we all know it’s not that. We must also clean up. I run around endlessly, to attend to residents. With each word I speak and action I present, I am kind. I am gentle and I am loving. For I feel that one kind word can cause a smile. One kind action can cause a laugh. And one kind gesture can change their world. I will continue to do that for as long as I am a nurse, because I’ve learnt too quickly, shamelessly, you cannot always make a change. But fortunately sometimes you can and it only takes one. I want to be that one, but I know I cannot in this circumstance.
After all this has taken place, it is time to do another round. There’s three of us left on the floor now, to attend to over 50 residents. What an enormity, an enormity that the carers can simply not meet. There are others, but they too have their own role. Though I feel that sometimes they do not understand the residents or us. I feel as though sometimes the others are ashamed in themselves too. I know I am. Though it is not our fault. It is the higher authority who cannot do something or simply will not. I don’t really know what it’s like up there either. All I know is that I am down here and my old and frail and most wise family are suffering. What can I do?
After we are finished, we start paperwork again. Sometimes I get to sit down. At this point, I’m sore and I’m tired. I’ve wished a few times I wasn’t here. But I want to make a change. I want to help. I hope my help means something. I know it does to the residents. Maybe that’s enough.
The clock is ticking and we rush. The call bells still ring and we still get up, each time. Sometimes, I’m the only one…
Once 11pm strikes, a sense of relief washes over me. A sense of sadness also comes. I don’t like that. I walk to the staff room to collect my things. I walk out into the fresh air and night sky to hop into my car. I sit down and let out a sigh. Another sigh. I drive home, thinking about everything, the whole way home. I shed some tears. I am filled with sadness. I am even filled with anger. My residents don’t deserve this. They don’t deserve to not be spoken to or approached. They don’t deserve to sit in their soiled pads all day and become broken and tattered. They don’t deserve to be grabbed and rolled without a word of kindness or instruction. They don’t deserve rough hands or rushed words and gestures. They don’t deserve to be yelled at or spoken to with a tone. They don’t deserve to sit there aimlessly, with no desire to live whatsoever. They don’t deserve a lot of what they get here. It’s not just here though, it’s so many places and it’s so wrong. It’s devastating.
I don’t care what anyone says. These are my residents and they are human. They are the most old and frail and most wise people. I am disgusted. I am torn. But I will keep going. I will keep fighting for my family. I will keep loving abundantly and so delicately. These people walked the earth long before me. These people grew up and worked hard and endlessly to provide for themselves, but others first. These people are selfless. These people are people. They are the most beautiful people I have ever met.
Why do they deserve anything less than respect? I salute them. I look up to them. I love them. They have lived their lives but they are still living, let them live. For it is a will in its own to not simply just exist, but to live. They have been happy and they have been sad. Just like you. Just like me. And here we all are, wherever we are right now. In this complicated and tiresome life.
There are moments of happiness and there are moments of sadness. I am not disregarding the happiness that I, and others, can give them. I am not disregarding the happiness that they may feel. I am just drawing on the sadness. That sadness, that is starting to destroy the happiness. And that should never happen. The good will never be unimportant. Though the bad is vastly important right now.
I am sorry.
We are just the carers.
Previously on Nurse Uncut: