Thursday, November 04, 2010

She Works Hard For The Money

My very first job ever was in a nursing home. I was 16 years old. My dad got it for me. I wanted to work at the pool. At first, working at the nursing home was very uncomfortable. I was a kid. Everyone else was grown. And smoking. Oh, the smoking breaks these people took. I made $5 an hour, which was way over minimum wage, and I got to work in the air conditioning. Not too shabby for a kid like me.

I didn't really like it at first. I was in the activities department. There were 3 full time people in the activities department, and then me. I didn't really have many specific things to do. I just helped out where I was needed. I passed out newspapers in the morning, passed out cigarettes at smoke time, passed out the mail. I talked to residents coming and going and helped feed those who needed help at lunchtime. Sometimes I helped by doing nails or passing out juice. Other times I gathered residents up so they could watch a program or hear a speaker. I also made copies, answered the phone and did "light clerical" work.

I began to find that I didn't really care for the people I worked with, my colleagues, but I really did enjoy working with the residents, even as one resident did offer to kill me with a vase. Even as a man who was enjoying a manicure from me jerked his hand at the last second and I cut his nail into the quick. Even as that same man threatened to tell my father that I was trying to kill him. Which he did. I always felt like I was doing something. I felt like I was making a difference.

In college, I saw a job listing for an Assistant Director of Activities at a local nursing home. I needed a job and felt qualified so off I went. And I got it. Twenty hours per week doing in-room visitation and facilitating small groups. In-rooms, as the name would suggest, meant I had a list of basically room-bound residents that I would visit twice weekly and offer sensory stimulation by reading, playing music, asking questions, doing nails, putting lotion on their hands. My small groups helped residents with their large motor skills and we would play games throwing balls and tossing bean bags and using a parachute. Sometime I would help out with other activities, too. I still wonder what's become of one of my favorite residents. I'm sure he's died by now.

Nursing home administrators are hyper-focused on one issue: the census. Folks in the beds means money in the coffers and when it's low, cuts will be made. Budgets get slashed and people can be fired or laid off. People like the Assistant Director of Activities. People like me. I was laid off and then offered a position in the kitchen as a dietary aide. You can bet I thought this was beneath me. Blech. It was summertime hot and I was preparing food! And cleaning up after it. Scraping plates. Washing dishes. I had to take a pay cut, but I had more hours. And I didn't have to worry about my next meal.

But I have always loved old people. Except for that time when I was about five that I told my great-grandmother that I hated old people (and she qualified). Oops.

I have volunteered to visit shut-ins at my old church. I am currently a certified(!) volunteer ombudsman at a nursing home in my city. I plan to start visiting shut-ins from the church we attend now. But I want to take it further so I'm going to back to school. For real. I'm so excited about it I could bust. I have an appointment on November 19 to start putting my plan in place.

UNT offers a dual major program in social work and applied gerontology. You receive 2 degrees. They also offer a Master of Science in Long Term Care Administration through their gerontology department. That's where I'm headed. But in the meantime, I'm going to be begin work on the double major this Spring. I am also really interested in state survey work and investigations, and since I'm in no way interested in becoming a nurse or an engineer, social work is the way to go.

It's funny, this is not the first time I've had this plan. I had a social worker/administrator route mapped out for myself years ago. Life got in the way, I guess. But not this time. I'm clearing the branches and the path. Onward and upward.


Anonymous said...


Oilfield Trash said...

Well if you go back to school and become a Mean Green, I will support you.

And I remember your plans from back in the day.