Skilled Nursing Home Caregivers Have the Right Stuff

March 3, 2015

Skilled nursing hospitals, better known as nursing homes, scare the living daylights out of me.

Skilled nursing hospitals, better known as nursing homes, scare the living daylights out of me.

My mom was in 1 for cardiac rehab for a week or so, and every time the elevator door opened, I braced myself for those who appeared to be knocking on death's door.

A human life ending saddens me. Seeing it happen in a nursing home, I always ask myself, “Is this how it is going to end for me?” It is the scenario of my death that I desire least.

It always brings to mind T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men,” in which the poet chronicles his father’s passing, noting that it ends “not with a bang but with a whimper.” As a vibrant senior gentleman once told me, “I want to die at age 92 from the gunshot wound of a jealous husband.” One could only be so lucky.

As I wandered through the ward, I was amazed by those who staffed it. They treat their patients with the dignity and decency they deserve. They go around with smiles on their faces taking care of every need that a patient may have, every day and every night. They are made of tougher stuff than I.

Over the years, I have done my fair share of caregiving. In high school, I was a hospital volunteer. I fed quite a few patients who could not feed themselves. I filled their water pitchers and sometimes just kept them company. It was a rewarding job, and it prepared me for a time in my thirties that I would sooner forget.

When my dad became terminally ill with multiple system atrophy, which Times-Tribune journalist Chris Kelly referred to as a disease in which the body breaks down in a way that is reminiscent of a condemned building being prepared for demolition, I took care of everything Dad needed. I even trimmed his fingernails and toenails as he was dying, because part of me felt like he wouldn’t want to have nasty nails on his final trip.

I did this once a week for a few years, but skilled nursing home caregivers do this for years on end and make full careers out of it. Frankly, I don't know how. I understand why the burnout rate in such a career is so high.

When I lose a patient, I feel it. How can you not? But this happens in the nursing hospital field on an almost daily basis. I guess the reward is that the staff members did everything they could do for their patients while they were here, and they feel pretty good about that. Over time, I felt that way about Dad.

To the skilled nursing team at Allied Skilled Nursing Facility in Scranton, thank you for taking such good care of my mom during her stay. Keep up the great work!

Jay Sochoka, RPh, admires those with the right stuff.