I didn't see them at first, not really. I was too wrapped up in my own grief, trying to come to terms with the fact that my grandmother, matriarch of our family, was at the end of her life. I couldn't believe that this woman, a force of nature for much of my life, was lying in a nursing home looking unbelievably fragile. So I hardly noticed the certified nurse's assistants who were caring for her, until I saw Jane.
Jane was a nurse's aide (CNA) who continually blessed us with her commitment, compassion and care as my grandmother died. Through her acts of grace, my eyes were opened to the amazing service that CNAs provide every day. Often overlooked, nurse's aides are the backbone of assisted living facilities. They are the primary caregivers, providing unending, intimate daily care for our elderly family members.
CNAs have a tough, underappreciated job. They are so much more than people who just "clean up" after the residents! Like Jane, they bathe, dress, undress and feed the people in their care who can no longer perform these fundamental tasks on their own. They are at the bottom of the medical hierarchy, continually taking orders from their supervisors while coping with often unhappy family members of their charges. When they do their job well, they are more than worthy of our respect and recognition.
On my grandmother's final day of life, my mother was on the road, in the process of moving furniture and clothes from her previous assisted living facility into storage. She hadn't realized that my grandmother was so close to dying, but Jane recognized the signs, and knew she was within hours of death. She tried persistently to reach my mother, calling everywhere she could think of to get a message through, knowing it was important for my mother to be with my grandmother during her final breaths.
In the end, Jane succeeded. My mother was able to be present and say goodbye as my grandmother died. I still cry as I think of this, and my heart fills with gratitude for the love that Jane showed my family that day.
I pray that you, too, will be touched by the kindness of one of these amazing caregivers. Do you have a CNA angel story? If so, please share it as a comment on this blog.