Many people assume that I want to go into medicine because I want to make a lot of money. Or because my parents have pressured me into thinking it’s a good idea. Or because I’ve watched [insert medical TV show here] and thought it looked cool. But the real reason is rather simple. I like helping people. I love interacting with people and knowing that I’m making them feel better. The beauty is, even while I work my way towards a career as a physician, I can make a career out of making people feel better by being a caregiver. In this post, I’m going to share some of the best parts of being a caregiver for the elderly.
1// Hearing the Stories
Oh my gosh people have lived some amazing lives!
The best part of my job without a shadow of a doubt is just sitting and talking about the lives of my residents. Sometimes the stories they tell aren’t necessarily real. But sometimes they will share valuable pieces of their lives with me. They’ll talk about fun moments of their lives or they’ll cry about the difficult memories. And I’m lucky enough to be the person that they share that with.
There hasn’t been a feeling quite like the one I felt when my most difficult resident felt like they could tell me a little bit of their backstory. I felt like I had earned their respect and had been doing a good job of making them feel respected and cared for.
2// Consistent Interaction
I may not be the most extroverted person in the world, but I absolutely love talking to people. Being a caregiver consists of a lot of talking which makes my job fun.
I’ve said it before, part of the reason that I hated bench research is that it doesn’t involve interacting with people. You spend most of your time in front of test tubes pipetting or doing kinda boring calculations. It’s not fun.
Being a caregiver is very different. In a way it’s similar to retail in that you’re expected to be happy and cheerful. However, there’s an added bonus of seeing the same familiar faces and forming real connections with people who don’t have very many people to make connections with.
3// Giving Autonomy to Residents
I work in an assisted living community so the majority of the people I care for are mostly capable of taking care of themselves but need some assistance. But there are others who are mostly dependent on their caregivers and really need us to be their advocates.
One of the best parts of my job is simply listening to them and sharing their desires with the rest of the team that cares for them. Theoretically this seems like it should be easy. But the reality is that there are other caregivers who don’t listen and who don’t care as much. Often times caregivers stop seeing these residents as people who had full lives and now no longer have the ability to live their lives. Sometimes caregivers need to be reminded that our residents aren’t babies, they are full grown adults who deserve to be listened to and respected.
I love that being a caregiver is about taking the time to really listen to the wishes of my patients.
4// Constant Learning
This job is still pretty new to me so there’s a lot of things that I don’t know. I enjoy the learning that I have ahead of me to be the best caregiver I can possibly be.
Alongside learning textbook things about my job, I’m also learning that everyone has their own way of the day-to-day dealings of residents. Each caregiver, CNA, and med tech has their own style or flare in how they care for the residents. I’m enjoying the process of developing my style.
But I can say that my style involves a lot of talking to patients. Like I’ve said a million times, I love talking and I know that so do most people. So I give my residents the opportunity to just talk to me and I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to listen.
Another aspect to my style is requesting permission. One of the main things that I do at my job is getting my residents ready for bed by changing them into pajamas. I was taught to just strip patients as quickly as possible, ignoring their protests and doing my best to not get hit. I hated this method, it made my residents stressed and it made me feel bad that they were so obviously unhappy. Instead, I explain to my patients what I’m doing and why and then, most importantly, I ask if they’re willing to help me take off whatever article of clothing. Doing this involves them in the process and makes it less likely that they’re going to be angry and violent with me. It may take me a little longer to get the residents ready for bed but at least I know their going to bed happy and that makes it worth it to me.
5// Desensitization to Bodily Fluids
This is probably the weirdest one on this list. Since starting work as a caregiver, I have no qualms about feces or urine or blood or vomit. None of these things bother me at all. Granted, they didn’t bother me much when I started but bodily fluids don’t make me even the slightest bit squeamish.
Now this might be a strange thing to think is a good part of my job at first glance, but when I think about the future, I know it’s good. I know that doctors often get puked on and are frequently covered in some bodily fluid by the end of their shifts so getting over the smell and the feelings associated with these fluids is going to eventually be a good thing.
I’m still new at being a caregiver so I know that my take on the job is through rose-colored glasses. But I think these four things are integral to the job and aren’t likely to change while I’m working. I’ve gained a lot of perspective about the things that are important to me as a person and a future physician while being a caregiver (and while writing this post).
I’m not ignoring the fact that this is a weird thing to be grateful for, but this blog is all about honest experiences and this is honestly how I feel.
I’m incredibly grateful to be a caregiver, to be able to give a group of often ignored individuals the respect and dignity they deserve in their remaining time on earth.
What job have you had that you’ve been grateful for? Would you ever be a caregiver?