I started my health career 28 years ago as a Certified Nurses Assistant and as an administrator at an assisted living facility. My calling, I found out, was working in hospice with Heart ‘n Home Hospice. I just celebrated my 10 year anniversary of working with this wonderful company. Over the years, I have had the privilege to help many families and I’ve had the privilege to help multiple members of the same family. That is the greatest compliment when families continue to ask us to help.
As I think back about these last 10 years, stories and memories come flooding back. Memories of people who were more than patients for me … they were friends.
The very first patient that I ever had was Matt. We got along great. I would do the dishes and fold laundry and he would tell his family he did it. I always got a chuckle out of that. He reminded me so much of my dad. I told him that once and he just smiled.
I remember one patient from many years ago, her name was Shelley (names changed for privacy). It came to be that we both had the same nickname. So that’s what we would call each other by our nickname each time we saw each other. Also, she loved ducks so I got her some rubber duckies so that she could enjoy them. A few years later, I had the opportunity to care for her son, Mark, in his last days. There are always those special people that touch your heart. He was a true friend. Mark loved coffee and donuts. I would visit him first thing in the mornings. One time I stopped and picked him up a donut along the way. Mark’s son said that I was an angel to his dad. That brought tears to my eyes.
Scott was another patient of mine and we became great friends. I would make him breakfast every morning as well as help him bathe, shave, and get ready for the day. He moved to a town about 40 minutes away, but I was able to continue to see him there. His cousin would tell me that I could calm Scott down just by holding his hand. And it was my pleasure to do so. Scott loved music and he would play music on his guitar for me.
I took care of a patient, Jenny, for a while before she moved to Washington. She came back several years later and I ran into her at a facility. She was excited to see me because she couldn’t remember the name of the hospice where I worked and she was trying to find me to get back on services with Heart ‘n Home. We were able to get her back on our services and our friendship was back to where it was before. I was there during her passing. Now her husband is my patient. What a joy it is to have the opportunity to serve them both.
One patient that I had would call me his “Sunshine.” I would go five days a week to get him up and make him his oatmeal. He would tell me that I made his day.
Another patient that I had was the father of the administrator of the assisted living facility where I had worked. We worked together before I started with Heart ‘n Home. It took me a while, but his dad finally let me help him with his personal care, such as bathing and dressing. Near the end, he would let me cook biscuits and gravy and an egg for his breakfast. His daughter thought that was amazing because he wouldn’t let many people cook for him. When he passed, I was asked to speak at his funeral. I was the only one to speak beside his son. It was an honor.
When you are allowed to get close to a person doing the work that I do, you really get to know them. Once I took care of a 101-year-old lady. I was asked to speak at her funeral as well. She and I liked to joke around and had a special “chicken joke.” She didn’t like chicken and I found her a rubber chicken that said, “Eat beef!” She loved it. Years later I had the privilege to take care of her son as well.
One of my patients loved to laugh. We would always laugh during her shower and her family always liked hearing her laugh. But, it’s not always easy for people to get comfortable with the thought of someone helping them with something so personal as showering. It took a while for another patient, Betty, to warm up to me. During her shower, I would sing “You Are My Sunshine” to her. This helped calm her and we would end up having fun laughing together. She came off services recently. We sang “You Are My Sunshine” one last time together. I’m going to miss her. I enjoyed our visits.
Clint was another one that needed to warm up with the idea of having me come in and help him. He wouldn’t talk much, but after several attempts, I would say “My friend,” and he would say, “Not today.” But he warmed up and he would always say “My Friend” after that.
I recently had a patient who passed. I became close to his whole family. Frank wouldn’t say much, but once in a while, I saw him wink at me. One day I said that “I will see you tomorrow” and he said, “You promise?!” That was special to me. I know that I made a difference to him even if he couldn’t tell me some days.
Gary raised cows earlier in his life. When I found this out, I figured that I would have a little fun with him. I have a cow costume so I wore it to our visit one day and his smile was just priceless. At another visit, I arrived to get him up out of bed and I found him trying to get up on his own. I asked, “Where are you going?” And he replied that he was looking for me. He had tears in his eyes and I said, “Gary, why are you crying?” He replied, “You are my best friend!” His sweet words melted my heart. It’s truly a pleasure to help the amazing people that I do. They’ve lived full, lives and now I have the opportunity to give back to them.
I can go on and on about the amazing people that I’ve had the blessing to work with. I go into their homes trying to lighten their burdens and to help them feel loved, but what they don’t know is that they give back to me just as much, if not more, than I give. Working for Heart ‘n Home over these last 10 years has taught me a lot and I have grown with each experience. I want to thank everyone at Heart ‘n Home for allowing me to be a part of this great team and helping our patients with their journeys. I have met and become friends with some great people over the years and their memories live on with me.
Tracey H., CNA for Heart ‘n Home Hospice