My mother always says: “If you are lucky, you will grow old, you can enjoy a long life.” During my work in a nursing home, I kept asking myself whether age is really that lucky. I would like to make one thing clear at the beginning: No, it was not a problem for me to wash the residents, feed them or re-cover their beds. I knew what to expect when I took the job. Shift work in connection with special working hours also took some getting used to, but it was not the end of the world. I have always had the thought in mind that I could one day be in the place of a patient. Or my parents, you only want the best. However, this does not mean that it will make the job easier.
A race that you can only lose
Most of the time I worked in the early shift, which means that the work started at six in the morning. After the shift was handed over to the previous nurses and a short conversation about abnormalities at night, the responsible colleagues and I divided up between the residents. We didn't need great computing skills for this: With 40 patients on our floor and two employees per shift, you can quickly find 20 residents who you have to look after yourself. In short: within two and a half to three hours you run from room to room, always with a glance at the clock, because the time for every single person is strictly timed – and far from enough. It's a race against time that you can only lose. Especially if you try to take the time that everyone needs for everyone. Between tours, documentaries and the administration of medication, there is hardly a quiet minute, let alone time for a break to eat. And still – you keep going.
We'll all be old someday
At this point, I don't have to mention that the understaffing of nursing staff is unfortunately not a cliché but a reality. I worked there as a nursing assistant, so I had no training in this area. And yet it was not uncommon that I had to look after 20 residents at the same time. Alone. In the home where I worked, there were also significantly more assistants than trained specialists. Who wants to do the job permanently? Shift work does not suit every day life, and the payment is also incorrect. In some cases, there were no surcharges for weekend or holiday work or I simply forgot to transfer the salary. But even if that hadn't happened, I would spontaneously think of 279 more attractive fields of work, and obviously that's not just me. Should something not happen soon, the nursing homes will face even more problems than they already do. A little reminder: we'll all be old and need care. And then?
I wasn't prepared for moments like this
I had the late shift on a Thursday. My second colleague had already left, so I should just wait for the night shift. I was not told that he was sick. And yet I couldn't just throw my smock into the spin and explain to myself the end of the day. I stayed and looked after the patients, was there for them as usual. Just all alone. And then a resident freaked out. She was demented, something bothered her, was not right. She attacked me and first pinched my shoulders, then pushed her into the corner of the room with her walker. At that moment I was more helpless than ever before because I was not prepared for such situations. And then there were 39 other residents who needed my help. I tried to calm her down, talked to her, I don't know how long. In the end, the shock was bigger than the scratches on the shoulder, all half as wild. But I've never been so happy to be able to go home as I was after this shift.
You get a lot back
Of course, not everything was bad, I have never experienced so many heart-warming moments as in my time there. A resident was 104 years old, when I first read that in her file, I thought something had gone wrong. Despite her age, she was the fittest of them all, both physically and mentally. She got ready in the morning alone, with all the trimmings, ran through the corridors with her rollator and was always the first to sit at breakfast in the morning. Once she was swallowed up, we had to search the whole home for her until someone found her outside the house. She just wanted to go for a walk, because "you get crazy in there in the long run!"
You shouldn't forget that you are accompanying people. That you are there for them, because sometimes they no longer have a family – and then they tell us their stories, sing songs to us and show their gratitude. One patient literally thanked me for every sock I put on her. You get so much gratitude back if you help them.
The most important
What I took with me from my time in the old people's home, in addition to wisdom and fate, is the respect for aging. As simple as it may sound. I couldn't say what I found worse; Patients who were fit in the head but bedridden because the body could no longer take part, or physically fit residents who could no longer take part in the head. The most important thing is and remains health – and if you no longer have it, people who take good care of you are all the more important.
I am firmly convinced that there are still many people out there who would be perfect for this job, but still prefer to take on another job where the working conditions are less bad. My appeal to politicians, decision-makers and doers: change something, make the carer's profession a valuable profession and see how people help people.