It Goes Both Ways

  1. 26

    As nurses in LTC facilities, we care for the residents in many ways. Beyond that, we care about them. But is the caring really one sided? Or do our residents care about us too? We are important to our residents, not just for what we do for them as nurses. In many cases, they see us more than their own families. We're not just that person who passes out medications, we are people they care about. Perhaps...it goes both ways.

    Having worked in long term care for some time, first as a CNA, now as a nurse, I know how important touch is to the residents. A hug, a hand on the back or shoulder, even a quick squeeze of the hand lets residents know that they are not alone, that someone cares.

    Residents in long term care often suffer from lack of meaningful physical contact. Often, the only touch they experience is during personal care, which by necessity is conducted professionally. Knowing this, at work I frequently touch residents on the back, shoulder, arm, hand, and yes, even a hug sometimes. I've seen this kind of touch cheer, comfort, encourage, and calm.

    With all the emphasis on what we do for the residents, we tend to think about what we can do for them. How touch can benefit them. But what about the residents, what they can do for us?

    Not that we should go to work expecting the residents to do things for us. But the residents do have something to offer. They are not "done," their meaning in life did not end when moved into the nursing home.

    One of my residents showed me that they do still have something to offer, and sometimes, I'm the one who needs the benefits of touch.

    You know how busy and stressful it can be working in LTC. Some days go pretty smoothly, but others are filled with interruptions in the form of family members with questions or concerns, calls to or from doctors, orders to transcribe, requests for PRN medications, falls, skin tears, changes in condition, critical lab values and on and on.

    I was having one of "those days,"not the worst, but stressful and terribly busy. Amidst the running to and fro, trying to get everything done and everyone taken care of, I passed Viola (name has been changed) in the hall. Viola was one of those residents who always has a smile and a kind word. She always had a positive attitude, even when facing a wound that didn't want to heal.

    Viola rarely asked for PRN medications, so I was surprised and bit concerned when she stopped me in the hall. Instead of asking for something though, she said "Can I give you a hug?"

    I quickly replied, "Of course!" and bent down to hug her in her wheelchair.

    As we hugged, she said "I know your job is hard, but you're a great nurse. I want you to know that."

    I walked away from that brief encounter with a lighter step and a new perspective. It had never occurred to me that a resident would give me encouragement. Viola helped me see that we are important to our residents, not just for what we do for them as nurses. In many cases, they see us more than their own families. We're not just that person who passes out medications, we are people they care about.

    Sometimes, I'm the one who needs a hug.
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Aug 21, '14
    nguyency77, Keep_Calm, LTCNS, and 23 others like this.

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  2. Visit  Kittypower123 profile page

    About Kittypower123

    Kittypower123 has '4' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Hospice'. From 'Houston, TX, US'; Joined Feb '09; Posts: 121; Likes: 249.

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    24 Comments so far...

  3. Visit  decembergrad2011 profile page
    0
    I loved this.
  4. Visit  Tragically Hip profile page
    1
    KP, that was wonderful. We can't forget that patients and staff are all human.
    jalyc RN likes this.
  5. Visit  Isitpossible profile page
    5
    just the other night, i went to give my 91 yr old pt her medications... asked how she was feeling and got the standard "im okay"...but she looked a little down so i just hugged her... "that was so beautiful, thank you" she said!! it made me realize how little physical contact our residents receive!! and i walked away feeling good but a little sad too...
  6. Visit  dianne777RN profile page
    7
    Wow, what a wonderful story! I am a new grad RN and have an interview tommorow in an LTC. Most have implied that it is an inferior job. This really upsets me as I see nursing not as getting into something "prestigious", I got into nursing because people, all people, need caring. Sorry, don't mean to ramble. I am excited about the opportunity to work with the elderly. Wish me luck on the interview! Thanks
    LTCNS, LTCangel, Spring_Peeper, and 4 others like this.
  7. Visit  jrwest profile page
    2
    Quote from dianne777RN
    Most have implied that it is an inferior job.
    I want to let you know that LTC is not an inferior job- it's the suits and owners who make the job hardly bearable. If only we could have the time in the day to spend with the residents like you would want.

    Good luck on your interview.

    as on- topic of the subject, it is these moments when you realize that some ( but not many ) pts aren't jerks, and are actually considerate human beings that we should be honored to take care of.
    LTCNS and dianne777RN like this.
  8. Visit  zieglarf profile page
    4
    I'm a dude - so I'm not going to be hugging anyone.

    However I do place a hand on the upper back/shoulders of the residents sometimes - a 'hey buddy' sort of thing. Some of the men like to shake hands - it's respect.
  9. Visit  Maremma profile page
    2
    This is a wonderful article! Thanks for posting it.

    zieglarf- What does being male have to do with hugging or not hugging patients? Compassion can flow from both females and males. Grandma can be comforted by a son's or grandson's hug as much as a daughter's or grand daughter's you know?
    dbscandy and SHGR like this.
  10. Visit  HM-8404 profile page
    2
    Quote from Maremma
    This is a wonderful article! Thanks for posting it.

    zieglarf- What does being male have to do with hugging or not hugging patients? Compassion can flow from both females and males. Grandma can be comforted by a son's or grandson's hug as much as a daughter's or grand daughter's you know?
    Because males in the medical profession have to be careful about contact with patients, especially female patients. We are aware that we are always just a misunderstanding away from a lawsuit, or termination.
    jalyc RN and zieglarf like this.
  11. Visit  SHGR profile page
    0
    Lovely story. Thanks for sharing this.
  12. Visit  jalyc RN profile page
    7
    I have always been a 'toucher', 'hugger', and people person. Many instances of making an impact on others....

    In the '70's, when they had decided AIDS could be caught just by reading about it, I took a fresh pitcher of water into an AIDS pt's room. He burst out crying. He said "I have felt so worthless, everyone wearing gloves, masks, and full protective gear around me. You made me feel human again, by not wearing gloves." I told him, I was just setting down the pitcher, if I were doing pt care, I would be gowned up. He said that was fine, but just seeing a real face and real hands was such a boost for him.
    Another was crying at breakfast. "I can't stand this no salt (cardiac) diet any more." We talked & I asked him what he wanted if he could have ANYTHING for one meal. "A chili hotdog with everything!" 7:30 am I called his doctor and requested this. "NO!" I said the pt was 80 yrs old, had lived a good life, and if life made him that miserable now, what difference would one dog make? Dr. reconsidered and said IF I could get one from dietary now, he could have whatever he wanted for this ONE meal. (HAHAHA) Dietary came up with TWO footlong dogs, cheese, chili, onions, ketchup, mustard, & relish with French fries and a Coke. Pt later told dr he could stick with new diet restrictions if he was allowed one day a month to look forward to whatever he wanted. Dr. agreed and all were happy.

    In the 80's another AIDS pt, that no one would draw labs on or start an IV in. Same outcome when I did both with no gloves. When reprimanded, I replied that I took care of AIDs when they said it was NOT contagious and NO precautions were necessary. If I didn't get it then, I was not worrying. Never did get anything from a patient.

    In the 90's I started in LTC. One resident crocheted 'straps' onto Christmas dish towels for everone to hang on their refrigerators. As a Jehovah's Witness, I was concerned when she gave me a small, wrapped box. "I remembered." I opened a towel with a cottage and small children & animals around it rather than a Christmas theme. Yes, they appreciate our care and respond in kind.

    When 'STATE' decided nicknames were degrading, I had a nearly blind DAKA who always called me Sugar and Momma Bighips. With 'STATE' watching as I walked in at 7am, he hollered out "Hey Momma Bighips. Give me some sugar." I walked over and said "Hey, BigMan.", gave him a hug, and watched my DON and ADON drop their jaws. I looked right at 'STATE', as this was a FAMILY demonstration, nothing degrading here, and she was laughing out loud. No cites either. ; )

    I also always talk to pts, whether they are comatose or not. Had 2 middleaged AA that never spoke, finally respond to me after a couple of years. Complete sentences. Said I was usually the only one who talked to them, so they never bothered to respond to anyone else. (one was a tube feed that was running slow. She told me "It has been slow all day for everyone else too." The other when I said "How's it going today?" replied, " I have a headache. Could I have some Tylenol?" Shocked the daylights out of me both times. But they went right back to silence again after that day.) Fluke maybe, rare lucidity, who knows. But still rewarding to know I had touched something.

    To the new grads, these are the moments that you will remember as meaningful. Be your patient's advocate. Help families. Humans are hard-wired to NEED touch, affection, attention. Grab for the gusto with every patient you can. It will be returned a 1000 times.
    LTCangel, Spring_Peeper, dbscandy, and 4 others like this.
  13. Visit  Mrsearly2009 profile page
    0
    So touching and so very sweet.
  14. Visit  anotherone profile page
    2
    Quote from jalyc RN
    I have always been a 'toucher', 'hugger', and people person. Many instances of making an impact on others....



    I also always talk to pts, whether they are comatose or not. Had 2 middleaged AA that never spoke, finally respond to me after a couple of years. Complete sentences. Said I was usually the only one who talked to them, so they never bothered to respond to anyone else. (one was a tube feed that was running slow. She told me "It has been slow all day for everyone else too." The other when I said "How's it going today?" replied, " I have a headache. Could I have some Tylenol?" Shocked the daylights out of me both times. But they went right back to silence again after that day.) Fluke maybe, rare lucidity, who knows. But still rewarding to know I had touched something.

    To the new grads, these are the moments that you will remember as meaningful. Be your patient's advocate. Help families. Humans are hard-wired to NEED touch, affection, attention. Grab for the gusto with every patient you can. It will be returned a 1000 times.
    Not a hugger or a toucher BUT i talk to every patient. And like you I have had one respond that nearly sent me into a panic! It was that shocking. I always state what I am going to do before I DO IT, whether the pt is ressponsive or not. I HATE when other nurses or the aides tell me " he can't understand you" or " he isn't oriented" DUH I KNOW that is most likely right but maybe they do.........
    LTCangel and dbscandy like this.


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