In praise of CNAs

In praise of CNAs

Yesterday I ran into a neighbor who is studying to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). I asked if she knew which area she would like to pursue specifically. She said she’s been considering doing in-home health and asked if I thought that was a good idea. I told her YES! In-home health helped me survive the last few years that my mom was home. After we parted I started thinking about all the CNAs I have worked with over the years, and what separates the good from the bad.

First off, it has to be one of the most thankless jobs on the entire planet. Their reward for long hours of heavy lifting, dirty diapers, oozing wounds, and irritable, uncooperative, and even violent patients is usually a pittance of a wage with few (if any) benefits. Why on earth do they do it? I had a hard enough of a time just caring for my own mother without completely losing my mind, and I love her. I don’t know if I would be able to do it day in and day out for anyone else.

The good ones do it because they have a genuine heart for people in need. They provide love and acceptance in situations most people walk away from. They wash, dress, feed, and nurse people who can’t take care of themselves while treating them with dignity and kindness. They don’t lose their temper. They don’t argue with the sick; they listen and then gently guide. In short, they MAKE PEOPLE’S LIVES BETTER.

While my mom was at home, the only respite I got was about four hours a week when a CNA would come into the house so I could leave. With the worst ones, I’d come home to a house dirtier than when I left, and an irritable Mom who obviously had had a bad time even though she couldn’t tell me why. My mom’s beautiful 25th-anniversary ring was stolen by a home health worker because it never occurred to me I would need to lock up our valuables.

BUT: With the best ones—and there were more good than bad–I’d come home to a sparkling house and a mother who was clean, well-fed, and happy from having one-on-one attention (from someone besides me) for awhile. Now at Mom’s assisted living, the good ones are the ones who have time to give their patients a hug, or do a little project with them, or make the effort to engage them in conversation, which is what all of the residents like best. No matter how far gone they are, they all love to have one-on-one interaction with someone. And, most importantly, they appreciate people who treat them like rational grownups even if they act like they’re lost in the Twilight Zone.

So here’s to you, Penny, Meagan, Cathy, Bridget, Stephanie, Audra, Kim, Jared, and all the others who have made life a little better for my mother and people like her. You should be earning what movie stars make, and I trust that God will one day richly reward you for the important work that you do. You truly are heroes to all of us who have been lucky enough to know you and benefit from your skill and generosity of spirit. Three Cheers for CNAs!!!


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