Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hell's Nursing Home

I scoffed at the people training me at my job when they said they do not take any breaks or the 30-minute lunch period. They all work straight through 8-hours and do not get paid for the half-hour lunch they didn't take. I, flatly refused to be one of them. If I'm not going to get paid for working through my lunch you better believe I'm going to take it. I need the break anyway to refuel, recharge and refresh.

Well, that was while I was still in training. Now that I am working alone with an assigned group of residents of my own to care for, I've also become one of the CNAs working through without any break or even an opportunity to sit down. Yes, I am standing the entire 8-hours I am at work!

There is simply too much to do and not enough time to do it in - boy, does that sound like my life in general!

Today, I was assigned to 12 residents of whom 8 are unable to move by themselves and various equipment and lifts are needed. Two CNAs are required to operate the equipment so a lot of time is spent trying to track down someone to assist. But of course, everyone else is busy with their own residents so good luck!

I had the pleasure of caring for a 71-year-old woman retired from working as a CNA for 28 years. She scolded the staff member who assigned me to her group of residents saying because of the lifts needed, it was too hard a group for a new CNA to handle. But somehow I made it without getting a headache and every day it gets a little easier!

This is the work load:

Wake residents, change them, dress them, wash faces, comb hair, put in wheel chairs, assemble wheel chair leg lifts, make and/or completely change beds, find clean linen if available, tidy resident rooms, including emptying garbage.

Then, get the residents into the dining hall, help serve breakfast trays, help feed residents who need assistance eating, take trays to residents eating in their rooms, clean up dining hall after breakfast.

Give 2-3 residents a shower, answer call lights, do various tasks requested by nurses, assist residents w/toileting or going back to bed, rotate any resident on bed rest, etc.

Lunch requires getting the residents back in the dining room, passing trays, cleaning up, etc.

And on top of all this, assisting the other CNAs when they need help with their residents and completing paperwork at the end of the shift. It is a joke, that in addition to all of these duties, the nurses require the CNAs to walk/exercise some of the residents. So far, I haven't seen any CNA able to tackle that task. I know I am unable to fit it in!

Today, by 11:00, when I was supposed to go to lunch, I still had three residents I had not gotten to and dressed. They prefer to eat breakfast in their rooms. I just said forget it to lunch. I lucked out not having to give any showers - one resident refused and I gave her a partial bedbath, and the other requested hers at bedtime. I'm not sure how I would have fit in the showers otherwise. I was unable to finish the paperwork until 2:10 - a huge improvement over the 45 minutes I worked overtime without pay my last shift.

If I were not a widowed mom in my current position, I would say forget it to this job. It is physically impossible to handle successfully and I am angered that employees are being treated this way. Being a CNA is literally a backbreaking job and you would think an employer would want its employees to take care of themselves because they are so responsible for the residents.

It would be a blessing to have a husband to lean on at this point. To know the mortgage/rent was being paid and my job not so direly essential. But I am not in that position and my sons desperately need summer clothing - I don't have a choice or many options at this point and that is what sometimes makes my life disheartening. I'm currently only working three days a week. Is working three backbreaking days without a break worth it? Will I eventually crumble? What do you do when you're in a position where you feel your NEW employer is unethical and harming the very people it is being paid to care for? Again, so many questions and decisions to make on my own without a lot of support or feedback from others. If my husband were around, you can bet that we'd be discussing all of this. But if he were alive I'd still be employed as a mental health counselor...

It's funny, while I was dressing a resident, a news program was airing that talked about unemployment and the recession. It was stated that people my age are having a tough time and many have had to go back to school for retraining. Then, the rise in health care jobs was reported but the $20,000 low pay of CNAs was also mentioned. I will get out of this job eventually. I became a CNA to get my foot in the door to obtain some type of social services job in a nursing home. And eventually, that will happen for me. I have a Master's Degree and I am an intelligent woman. But I feel for my co-workers without college degrees who will retire as CNAs. It is a very sad situation. I am suspecting that I work at one of the "bad" nursing homes but I fear that the current trend for any job is to cut corners as much as possible. There needs to be at least two additional CNAs or one and a floater per shift from what I can see. This nursing home has downsized to the point of being hazardous to its residents.

There was a mandatory CNA meeting last week to deal with the poor helping attitudes of the CNAs. I kept comparing myself to the Asst. Administrator conducting the meeting and thinking I would have done a better job. When a social worker or therapist comes into one of my resident's room, all I can think of is how I should be doing that job!

I had hoped there would be time to interact more with the residents because personal, one-on-one interaction with people is one of my strongest skills. But the time is so rushed and limited. That makes me sad too. I make a point of trying to compliment the residents I work with. One is known as a curmudgeon. The staff couldn't believe this woman and I were getting along. The resident told me she doesn't get many compliments from the staff. She confided that they do not like to work with her. I was grateful for the detailed instructions she gave me for her care and told her so. She ended up helping me and in the end that is what it is all about.


  1. Now I can see why many elderly are so dead set against going into a nursing home. My Dad is currently on Hospice and right before leaving the hospital he threw a hissy fit saying he was NOT going to a nursing home. Now I can see why. We had to explain to him that Hospice was not like a nursing home. I thank God that it isn't. He will stay at the house until they deem it time to make the move to the Hospice House. Given the rapid decline I heard just over the phone in the past 24 hrs I don't think it'll be too long. For his sake I hope not.
    You are a saint for doing what you are doing under the circumstances you are doing it in. Clearly the CNA's are the front line warriors in the nursing home war.

  2. You ARE a saint!!! I can only imagine what it would be like to have to live in a nursing home--I probably will come to that someday and when I do visit there, I don't see many of the residents smiling. It is a sad state, but you are helping them as much as you can and doing a great job with your curmudgeon lady. That will be someday--the curmudgeon. I hope I get a nice CNA like you!