Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Does it Mean to Change a Healthcare Aide

A Healthcare aide is a person who allows us to keep our dignity, living in our own homes, tending to our gardens of food, friends, small money making hobbies, and social relationships within the community.  For some of us this person Is the primary social relationship we have.

The alternative?  An institution which is dehumanizing as all residents must be treated the same and expected to behave in particular ways at particular times, like machines.  Some institutions abuse disabled people and none of them can afford to provide enough room for gardens, of any kind inside the institution.

Healthcare aides are often underpaid, hard working people and if they can find better jobs it only makes sense for them to leave.

What Does it Mean to Change a Healthcare Aide?

I want to talk about one particular change which most of you have never had to make.  First, let me state clearly that I am Not complaining, either about the healthcare aide who made my life more fun and enriched it by her presence, Or the intelligent sensitive person who will be replacing her.

A friend once told me that change gets harder as you get older.  I wasn't sure I agreed with him at the time.  As a Buddhist, I know that the only thing I can count on is the impermanence, the changing, of everything.

But today I am thinking maybe he's right.  When you lose the help of someone who has made a huge difference for the better in your life it's hard.  I feel sad.

And when someone new comes to take their place, if they stay a while, it changes your life.  It changes what time you get up in the morning to be ready to begin working with the new person, and it changes what time you try to go to bed, whether or not you sleep.  I don't know how to arrange my schedule around these new, earlier hours.  I have been a night owl since childhood, but most business seems to be conducted during daylight hours.  Will I become more sleep deprived or figure out a good new schedule for myself.

If you respect a healthcare aide as a fellow human being with the same rights as you have, then switching to someone new is an investment.  It means learning what makes them laugh, laughter makes life easier for both of you.   It means listening to their troubles as you work together.  Since most of my troubles are rather obvious, I can't read flat shit, (print) and I can't drive, and sometimes I need a person to talk on the phone for me to someone who won't or can't raise their voice, I try not to afflict the person who works with me with any inner pain or turmoil I may be having.  But their problems are more likely to be financial and emotional and someone to listen can be helpful.

If a former aide has chosen to stick with you through a traumatic life change, (for me it was Ann's death) then loosing them is even more frightening. I do not know what I would do if I hadn't had the Great fortune to meet the lady who will be my new healthcare aide when she was working with another blind person I knew.  

In the past, when a new aide came to our home, Ann and I Both made it a point to be around, paying a lot of attention to what the person was doing.  I no longer have a back up. I was considering refusing any more healthcare aide hours and trying to cobble together a system of sporadic volunteer help, with me buying gas, treats the volunteer liked, etc.  But a regular schedule is usually much easier to work with, once you get used to it.

Also it means finding out what may offend the new person and working out a style of communication which is honest but doesn't hurt either of your feelings.  It means finding out jobs they enjoy and those they do not and trying, if possible, to take on some of those they do not.  Most of the time I can wash dishes.  But occasionally the tendonitis in my right hand and arm is so bad that this is an extremely painful activity.  Working with someone new means teaching them what you need, (help with ASL practice) and which things are usually but not always possible for you to do, (washing dishes, for example).  In other words, it means ending one relationship and beginning another overnight, or over the space of a couple of days.  It is painful and difficult.

But those who work as really good health care aides in one's life are Wonderful Gifts, they are not machines.  So it is only fair to treat them like the valuable people they are, whether their employers do or not.

This is a difficult change.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post.

    I have never worked as a healthcare aide or - so far, needed one - brief pause to knock on wood - but your post makes me think of both positions as I have not thought of either before. I wish there were a site where I could send a link to this post so that healthcare workers can see how their work is appreciated and respected. I doubt that they get many positive postings like this one.