During the month of September, one of my full-time nurses is going on a trip, which means that other nurses will be temporarily picking up his shifts. Some of these hours will be filled in by other caregivers who already work with me (my “regulars”), but due to the number of shifts that need covered, I have also added several new people to my team over the last few weeks. The new caregivers are great, and I am both impressed with CareStaf and excited to have these incredible individuals coming out to work with me, but this process of orienting these people to my care and getting used to the way they do things has been even more valuable because of something else it brought to my attention. This learning period with my new nurses has reminded me of how well my “regulars” know and take care of me. More than that, it made me appreciate how comforting that is, and how much easier it makes my life.
All of my “regulars” have been working with me about a year now, and many of them have been with me for two or more. Since I am fortunate enough to have amazing nurses who really care about doing a good job, as a result of this during their time with me they have learned exactly how I like things done. By now, all of them can do things just how I like them, and sometimes they even know to do things before I ask (like I said, I’m lucky). They could go through my daily care without me saying a word, and things would go just fine. Unfortunately, because I have a whole team of fantastic caregivers, I get so used to this level of care that I sometimes begin to take it for granted and lose my appreciation for it. While it is perfectly normal for people to start overlooking the importance and value of things they see every day, my nurses deserve much, much better than that. They work way too hard, get paid way too little, and care about me way too much to be taken for granted. This is why I am so glad that by bringing on these new people who are not yet familiar with my routine, I was able to regain perspective and fully appreciate their efforts. When you are looking at adding new nurses to your team, the process can be long and tiring. This has nothing to do with the agency or the nurses themselves, it is just the way the situation is. It is not easy to find someone who you are compatible enough with that you can instantly spend eight or more hours with them and not feel super awkward and uncomfortable. This means that you end up orienting many people who won’t end up working with you because they just are not a good match in terms of personality, which in homecare is extremely important. On top of that, it takes a lot of mental energy to break down things like how you brush your teeth, how you like to get dressed, or even how you want your body positioned in bed into step-by-step instructions. So by the time that you find multiple caregivers that are a solid fit, you have done lots of orientations and are exhausted. Over the last three weeks I have trained roughly seven potential nurses, and I am lucky that four of them are a really good fit for me, but in my experience it is usually not such a high percentage that work out.
Last week was especially tiring because I had a 32 hour stretch during which I had to orient three new, potential nurses. Once again, this had nothing to do with CareStaf or the caregivers (in fact, two of the three are now working with me), it is just the nature of the activity itself. By the end of this gauntlet of “meet-and-greets” I was completely fried mentally from constantly breaking things down, feeling people out, and being on my best behavior (so I would not scare anyone away). When it was over, that night all I wanted to do was lay my head on my pillow and go to sleep without saying a word. Thanks to my incredible team of “regulars,” this was exactly what I got to do. Once I got in bed my night nurse, as she always does, quickly and efficiently went through my bedtime routine, allowing me to just turn off my brain for the night. When I woke up the next morning, and my mind was recharged from the mental overload of the previous two days, it occurred to me how great it felt to be able to do that. How great it felt to be feel comfortable and safe enough with my team that I can completely trust them to take care of me. This may be difficult for able-bodied people to totally understand, but I cannot begin to explain how wonderful this makes me feel. Even though I knew all along how great my nurses are and how fortunate I am to have them out here, this series of events brought it back to my attention.
When you rely on other people to maintain your safety and well-being, as well as your quality of life in general, you are in a very vulnerable position. You have to trust that the people you choose to take care of you will do a good job and want you to be happy and healthy. This is a hard enough thing to do with loved ones and family members, and it is even more difficult to put this level of trust in strangers (which is what all nurses start off as, medically trained strangers). I am blessed that I have nurses that I am comfortable being completely vulnerable with. This not only makes my life so much easier, but it also is a big part of what allows me to live the independent life I have dreamed of since I was a child. This is way too important of a gift to not fully appreciate it, and the people who make it happen, which is why it is important to me that I don’t lose sight of how much my “regulars” do for me, above and beyond what is required of them, simply to make my life better. Just like I needed to regain some perspective as to how incredible my nurses are, we all have things or people in our lives that we sometimes take for granted. You don’t do this intentionally or because you don’t value them, but merely because they become so familiar that they fade into the background of your mind. This fact that you are fortunate enough to have something amazing in your life so often that it becomes white noise is exactly why we need to do our best to maintain our appreciation for these gifts. Take some time every day to appreciate the little things that people do for you that make a big difference in your happiness. This could be the way your spouse has a cup of coffee made just the way you like it waiting for you when you wake up, or how your dad always has your car warmed up for you before school in the winter. Think about how great and loved this makes you feel, and how much you would miss it if it was suddenly gone. Then tell the people responsible for these little gifts how much they mean to you. This process will not only bring an enormous amount of happiness to their life, but in thinking about how great they make you feel, to your life as well.