I am thrilled to see the community acknowledgment of the health care workers who are struggling during these unprecedented times. After 25 years in the industry, it is nice to finally see billboards, printed signs and hand made posters applauding that “Hero’s work Here.”
It is also very frustrating.
On one hand, these folks have been doing this labor-intensive work for much longer than coronavirus has been around, and often with little to no acknowledgment what so ever. In fact, the average health care worker makes $30,000/ year. Often times that can be even lower, especially if your job entails direct care. Certified Nursing Assistants and Activity Aides, those who do the most patient care and advocacy, get paid even less and yet take on so much of the day-to-day care.
Now, more than ever CNA’s and Activity Aides are being pushed to their limits, having to divide the same amount of work time amongst higher patient needs. Pre-COVID meal times were a group gathering that not only allowed a staff member to assist several patients at the same time, but also provided the necessary face time and group interactions that define a person’s well-being. Now all meals are served in a patient’s room, depriving them of the socialization that encourages them to maintain skills and feel human. CNA’s are serving and assisting with meals, one patient at a time.
Once, activity programs were held in large gathering spaces, allowing for group interaction and the group facilitator to manage their time more efficiently. Now activity programs are provided 1:1 in patient rooms. Activity programmers, who were once taken for granted and considered the “party people” in the facility, are oftentimes now the only prolonged human interaction patients have. With family visiting cut down or cut off
completely, patients who were, at one time, on the edge of holding it together, are now falling apart. And it is the lowest-paid staff that is doing their best to put them back together.
What’s more frustrating is the daily news updates of television actors, movie stars, and professional athletes who are “recovering from coronavirus”. These so-called hero’s that we decorate and celebrate each year (and pay tons of money to) are making no impact at the ground zero of a world pandemic. Yet, in the fall we may celebrate a world series, in late winter we may celebrate a Superbowl and in early spring we may celebrate the Academy Awards. These celebrations belong to our true Hero’s. We should stop, take notice, and pay tribute to them.
Posters, billboards, and signs can never EVER acknowledge the hard work and dedication health care workers have for those they care for. And those they care for are your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, your uncles, your friends. So much more needs to be done to celebrate these people and all that they do. Very few of us could do what they do, day in and day out… not to mention the ability they have to work through their own fears they harbor as they isolate themselves from their own family and friends, in an effort to keep them safe and well.
“Heros Work Here” is a lovely sentiment, but as one good friend of mine put it, “It’s lovely from the outside, but it is not addressing what is going on inside”: Inside each caregiver as they toil and sweat and give their best, in hopes not to contract a virus. Inside each patient as they exponentially lose everything that defines them as contributing humans. Inside each health care facility that is being stretched to its limits in resources, time, and energy. Inside each corporation that is just now realizing how important their direct care staff is to the success of their business.
Inside, these facilities are just barely holding on, stretched, worn down, and afraid. If the infrastructure of these organizations fails, the entire society fails. We must take our time to do more than just post a sign. That is just too little, too late.
Thank these people personally. Call your local nursing home facility and ask what you can do to support these heroes. I am sure they are all anxious to gain some community support from you, whether that be donuts, coffee, lunch-to-go, new masks, flowers, cards, donations of activity items… there are so many things you can do from the comfort of your own home, virtually, that can make a difference in a day.
Help a Hero out and know that you CAN be a part of the solution.