Monday, March 01, 2010

Remembering Anna

I worked as a nursing assistant from 1987-1992 in Colorado and Nebraska. It's how Steve and I got through college. I very much enjoyed my job and, especially at Hastings Regional Center, I enjoyed the people I worked with.

I worked at Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Boulder Colorado and, later, in Hastings. I worked the night shift, swing shift and sometimes the 5-9 shift. I attended college during the day. Especially when I worked the swing shift, I was mortified by the way some of the aides treated the residents. I worked on a private pay wing, which was supposed to afford residents better care. I tried very hard to maintain their dignity (even the ones that were suffering from dementia) and to treat them like I would want my own grandma to be treated.

There was one patient I remember in particular; her name was Anna Stauffer. None of the other aides liked to work with her because she complained a lot and was VERY particular about how she wanted things. But she and I understood each other. She didn't have any family. Her friends had long since died. She didn't have much control over her environment, and the other aides didn't treat her very nicely. She got control over things by insisting that everything was just so. There was nothing wrong with her brain, but her body was slowly deteriorating. What others saw as demanding and obnoxious, I recognized as a need for her to be treated as a human being. I often spent time chatting with her when all my other duties were done. I knew she appreciated the time I spent with her. On Thanksgiving one year, she offered me $5.00 to buy "something nice" for my boyfriend (Steve) and me for dinner. Of course, I didn't want to accept it because it was against policy and I didn't want to take money from someone who had so little. But the thought was so touching.

I still remember Anna very well. And I thought about her when I was in the hospital being treated like a piece of meat. I hoped that Anna, and other residents like her, felt that I had treated them with the sensitivity and dignity that they deserved. I hoped that I made at least a small difference to people who had so little control over their lives. I thought that it would be wise for every nurse, doctor and aide to have to experience the vulnerability of having to depend on others for the most basic needs. I am positive that I didn't always do a perfect job of treating the residents in the nursing home (and later, at the Regional Center) with respect and dignity, but I also know I did my best.

To Anna, wherever you are now: you taught me so much and now I can appreciate the heartache you had to endure. For me, it lasted only one night, but for you, it lasted a long time. God Bless you!

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