The Olympic feats of caregivers

While many of us watched the Summer Olympic Games this month, others were dreaming up some new events.

When a member of the online discussion forum wondered what a “Caregiver Olympics” might entail, the suggestions poured in from readers. I’ve summarized just a few of the postings here:

Wheelchair slalom: Navigating a wheelchair through an obstacle course that includes slopes, heavy restaurant doors, curbs and mud. (Points deducted for cursing.)

Mad Bathroom Dash: Finding the nearest public restroom before… Well, before time runs out.

Truth or Consequences: Did he swallow his pill or pocket it? Did she really use the bathroom before she got in the car?

Senior Shuffle: Trying to get one senior with dementia into the car while another is wandering away.

The Poop Vault:  Top honors to the caregiver who cleans up the most poop in a single day. Leaders from the food poisoning event will then compete in the mastery round (C. difficile). Extra points if the ceiling is involved.

Treasure Hunt: Finding the TV remote, the reading glasses, the dentures and the hearing aid in the resident’s room within one hour. Bonus points for sifting through the garbage can.

These tongue-in-cheek events may elicit a chuckle, but the point is a serious one: Caregiving is a marathon and a passion. Like the Wide World of Sports catchphrase, the vocation includes both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The progress of yesterday can be erased by tomorrow.

For many nursing home care positions, the payrates are a bigger hurdle than anything else. Many would earn better money in other careers—say, working in a department store. Certified nursing aides earn an average of $11.64 an hour, while their non-certified counterparts make about $9.75 an hour, according to the 2012-2013 Nursing Home Salary & Benefits Report, published by the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service. The minimum wage in my state of Ohio is $7.70, and most store cashiers start around $8.50. And at least at a retail store, the cleanups don’t usually involve bodily fluids.

Fortunately, we can be inspired by the champions around us. These professionals possess incredible stamina and patience while enduring gruelling repetition: how to take the meds and what time it is and what’s for dinner and why no one came to visit this week.

These professionals know that caregiving is a team effort—on every shift, at every facility. They support their colleagues physically and emotionally in order to combat high stress and high nurse burnout rates.

These professionals come back each day knowing that they probably won’t receive the rewards they have earned through hard work and dedication. A heartfelt thanks would stretch far, but they usually don’t get that, either.

Perhaps the Caregiver Olympics will become a real event someday. Or, maybe it already is, and all it lacks is some decent television coverage. Can’t wait to see who the sponsors are.

To read the entire “Caregiver Olympics” discussion thread, visit this section of the discussion forum.

Topics: Activities , Alzheimer's/Dementia , Clinical , Executive Leadership , Rehabilitation