Mary Robinson: First Place

Mary RobinsonMountain City Care and Rehabilitation Center

I started to work as a CNA when I was 15 years old. I loved my job and of course I knew everything, or so I thought. My work area was always neat, linen cart perfectly filled and organized, and my residents and their rooms were very neat. There wasn’t much time left for conversation and special attentions or even to listen to them. I had to make everything look good.

Then one day, I went into a resident’s room and she was crying. I asked her, “What’s wrong?” She hadn’t touched her food. I said, “Let’s get cleaned up and you’ll feel better.” She looked at me and stopped crying and said to sit down beside her. She told me, “I like you and you work very hard, and you have your priorities in the wrong place.” I said, “What do you mean?” She told me that I needed to put my heart into my work and I said I try to get everything done that I possibly can. She then said, “Mary, I don’t need to look good or have a neat room. I need to know someone cares. My doctor just told me I have cancer and it’s untreatable.” I felt so bad for her and I put my arms around her and held her until she cried herself to sleep. The whole time I was thinking about what she had said to me.

That day is when I became a good CNA. My views changed, and my work ethic changed. I still need to have the residents’ rooms neat and clean, but the most important part of my job was teaching myself to show them I care for them, giving more of myself and taking time to listen. One of my residents said, “Listening is the most important part of a conversation” So true. Now 40 years later I still love being a CNA.

What so many don’t understand about the elderly is how they are feeling and how views don’t change as we age. We still need to be cared about just like a younger person. The only difference is we have traveled the road called life and we know what real pain is and have learned to hide it from the world. We know how bad the loss of family and friends hurt. We also know we have to get up and continue through this journey.

As elderly, you are once again trying to build a bond with your caregivers, just like a foster child, and just hoping someone, somewhere has the time for you in their life. The phrase “Respect your elders” should be “Accept your elders.”