Macy Kemp: Second Place

Macy KempKnollwood Manor, Lafayette, Tennessee

As a little girl, I would always hold my great grandfather’s hand and walk him to his seat at the baseball park when he came to see my brother play. I have always had a connection with older, elderly people for some reason. I never had a fear of the nursing home because I was always there. It was where my Nana worked, so it was just natural to see the patients and talk with them. They always wanted to love on my cousin and me when we were little, and as we grew up we started helping as volunteers. I never really thought about them as elderly; they were just extra people to visit with and help. I have been a CNA at a nursing home for almost six years while working toward becoming an RN. We deal with the same patients every day. We learn their routines, we know their likes and dislikes, and we become family to them just like they become to us. I have a routine with a patient every morning when I work. I go in her room where she’s usually sitting in her chair waiting on her breakfast. I go over to hug her, and she kisses me on the cheek. Before letting me go, she tells me she loves me. Every day that I do that, I look forward to it because it makes a difference in my day and I know that it must for her as well.

Last year I had a patient whose sugar dropped very early in the morning hours. I knew she wasn’t acting her normal self and I told my charge nurse. I went back to my patient’s room. She was still not her normal self, and she was disoriented. I got in the bed with her, held her hands and just talked to her to try to calm her down. She needed me in that moment; her family wasn’t there, so I had to become that person she needed. Later that week, I did my everyday check-in on her. She then looked at me, smiled, and handed me a cream crocheted afghan that she had made me. In the sweetest of voices she said, “Thank you for saving my life.” We both had tears in our eyes at this point. She wanted to thank me for staying with her that morning until she was OK. This is a prime example of the bond that develops between a CNA and the patients that we care for. Never mind the age gap. To us there isn’t one. Now I will have a piece of her forever.

Making friends with the elderly is the same as making friends with your own age. It just takes a little work: like giving a complaining lady a good back rub with lotion after her shower gets you in her will, she laughs and tells me; helping the grouchy old gentleman go out to smoke suddenly makes him smile and glad to see you; and bonding with all the patients during COVID-19 so much that they are just as worried about you as you are about them.

Caring for, learning and loving the elderly has given me a better perspective on aging, living, and loving life. Elderly people are just older versions of us. They have lots of value, we just have to learn to look and see it. I have learned that first hand. I hope the younger generation sees that in me when I grow old. It’s like the popular saying, “Age is a matter of the mind. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” Age certainly does not matter to me anymore.