I used to be offended when I said I was a health care assistant and people would reply, “oh, so a glorified ass wiper”. I’d struggle to explain to them that it really didn’t matter how much poop I’d see in a day, you forget all about it.
And what most people don’t understand is, it really IS glorified. It’s the most humbling, tenderhearted experience to be apart of. And call it what you want, but nothing will do it justice.
Sure, there’s a lot of feces and bed pans, a lot of blood and tubes, a lot of catheters and supps. There’s a lot of hitting and grabbing, punching and yelling. But there is also a lot of love, hugs, dancing and hand holding.
It’s not all pads, bed baths and poop. It goes a lot deeper than cleaning up after some “senile” Senior.
What it really is, is breaking the news 15 times in an hour to a devastated wife, that her husband died 30 years ago, each time breaking her heart more and more. Its holding someone’s hand while they scream in pain that they are experiencing mentally, leaving them crippled in bed for days, weeks, months.
It’s continuously redressing a patient who is confused whether it’s daytime or night time, and maintaining a happy joyful heart as you explain to them that it’s morning time. It’s noticing your patient likes music, but can’t express it- so you sing to them when you get them ready just to see their smile. It’s maintaining a loving heart when you’ve been hitten by your patient because you’ve been trying to clean them, and they’re scared of being hurt.
It’s wandering around the halls holding your patients hand as they cry out in loneliness and brokenheartedness because their family never comes to visit them, even though their family left 30 minutes prior. It’s remembering their favourite food, snack, drink, it’s knowing their life inside and out and making sure that each person is treated as if they are a person.
It’s talking about death and helping them prepare, reminiscing on experiences, it’s learning about their life and listening to their sweethearts stories. It’s crying together, laughing together, it’s everything tragic and beautiful at the same time.
It’s explaining that they might not remember you tomorrow, but assuring them you are coming back to regain your trust and respect every day. It’s working 14 days in a row just to build relationship to make the patients life more comfortable. It’s crying on your drive home because you lost a patient that day. It’s caring about them so much you lay awake at 3am wondering how they’re doing.
It’s holding back someone’s hair, and scratching their back as they vomit into their bed because their medications make them sick to their stomach.
It’s reminding them that they are loved, no matter what nasty parts of them you’re experiencing. It’s reminding them that they are heard, valued, noticed and loved regardless of their status, race, origin, or religion.
There is something so special about being the person that holds someone as they take their last breath. Or knowing that you are possibly the last person they will see before they die. It makes you want to be a better person, it makes you want to give as much of yourself as you can just to make someone’s like a little bit better. Yes, this includes pad changes to prevent skin breakdown, yes, it means giving them a bath as they’ve been covered in their own feces, yes, it means that I will sit for 45 minutes just to help someone drink a small cup of water.
Yes it means that I will patiently listen to a story from somebody who is incapable of forming sentences. No, I will not strike back when I get called nasty names, or get hit across the arm, or kicked in the leg. I will love this person in a way they can understand, in a way they can feel safe. I will not give up on these people just because their brains are throwing them into defense mode and they are incapable of using words to describe what they need.
With a happy heart, I will go to great lengths, not because it’s my job, or my title, but because I love my patients as they are my family and want to make a difference in the lives of those I love.
Being a health care assistant is more work than I ever thought, but I have been immensely blessed with patience and love for the people I am honored to care for. It is pretty damn hard, but worth EVERY single moment.
THIS is what it looks like to love so deeply every single day.