The Most Unforgettable Staff Persons

After living in a nursing home for so long, it is impossible to pick out one unforgettable staff person. Many staff came to mind. Early on here, Carl was a young nurse aide who worked the night shift. Being new at nursing home life and uneasy, I bonded with the night shift aides. They had more time to talk to me. Carl was cute and reminded the female aides of Keanu Reeves. He did not look exactly like him, but he did have his build and a devilish twinkle in his eye.

I was leery about a young man taking care of me. But I got used to it. One night, shortly after arriving, I was sick. When Carl got to my bed, he had only time to duck before I threw up everywhere. I was very embarrassed, kept apologizing profusely, and wondered why he was not upset by this event. I felt uncomfortable about Carl cleaning me up. But he did it calmly while he kept me laughing at his chatter. Carl amused me by describing the places he hid during the night to scare the nurses and aides. Afterwards, I settled down and went to sleep.

In my beginning here, Debbie worked in activities. We were close in age and we had both attended Catholic schools. We struck up an instant friendship. I enjoyed talking with her and going to her activities. She sang with and to the residents, and danced with them. She even got applause when she filled the bird feeder. She made cookies for the residents and gave them many hugs. Several months later she and I sat the vigil with a dying resident for several hours. It was something we felt comfortable doing. Debbie was very idealistic and she thought that anything could be changed. As a pragmatist I reminded her that some changes take time. Debbie worked another year, but when she left, she was truly burned out. We are still friends and see each other. She admits that the older she gets, the more difficult it is for her to visit the nursing home.

Ted, a former dietary manager, loved to cook for us. His food was terrific. He always had great plans and ideas which he shared with us. He had worked for a major restaurant chain, so we felt he knew what he was doing. He sang during off time and once did a mini concert for us. He played guitar and sang, imitating his favorite country singer George Jones. He had a Southern accent that got more syrupy with each story he told. He was bright, animated, and always ready to chat.

Annette is a great nurses’ aide and motivator. But the most interesting thing about her is a unique accent. When she says “I am passing ice,” it sounds like “I am passing ass.” Everyone hears that but Annette. She perplexed us early on saying “begs” instead of “bags,” and “regs” instead of “rags.” She takes our gentle ribbing about her dialect well. She is that humorous drop of water in a sometimes stressful ocean here. Some of us think she invented her own accent. I think if she went on “Late Night” with David Letterman and just talked with him, he and the audience would find her banter hilarious.

Some staff members are memorable for the wrong reason. It seems that they work only for a paycheck. They are not as caring and diligent as they could be, though they probably do not see it that way. It is interesting to learn why people come here to work as caregivers. Some aides have shared that when they had nowhere to go on Christmas Day, they chose to work. I wondered if they said that to make me feel better, when my holiday visitors were slim. But looking back I think they were probably being truthful. Perhaps they felt that the only place they felt really wanted was here taking care of the residents.

Remarkable staff can soothe our souls. Some use humor, music, or they just take time to talk about any old thing with us. Those who are entertainers at heart will never be on American Idol. Others will not be TV evangelists, but they tend their flock, when needed. Some administrators get their hands dirty spreading mulch or trimming bushes just to make things look better.

Truly unforgettable staff are dependable. They show up day after day, week after week, and year after year. They see us at our best and most definitely at our worst. There is no adequate way to thank them, even though we try. They must feel rewarded by doing a good job each day and knowing they have improved the quality of the residents’ lives.

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