I want to tell you my story. It starts when I’m seven years old. My great grandparents were still living and I visited them often. Big Mom was my mother’s grandmother, very country–she wore the dress with the long apron, and would have us bathe in the porch sink or the galvanized basin in the yard. My pop pop Virgil was her husband. He worked the saw mill, was tall and lean, smoked a pipe, and often would bring my brother and me horehound candy. My grandmother, Granny Annie, was a tiny lady who also wore the dress with the apron. She had a dog named Star who was bigger than she was.
My Big Mom died at home as they did in the 1960s. I wasn’t allowed to see her, but my grandmother took care of her while she was ill and until she died. I also watched my grandmother take care of my pop pop Virgil in her home. He was bed bound, had a foley catheter, and needed all of his care provided by my grandmother. I saw her do things, when I was young and impressionable, that made me think, “I want to take care of my family when they get old.”
My Granny Annie wasn’t so lucky. My other grandmother still worked and her siblings were scattered across the country. So she was placed in a nursing home. I hated that place. Back in the 1970s, nursing homes were places you left your family and forgot them. That wasn’t the case for Annie though. We visited her frequently, and one thing that stuck in my mind was the odor. As a 7 year old, it was awful, and what made it better was Granny would sit in her bed and ask me to sing to her. Her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” Every time I went, I sang and her roommate and neighbors would come and listen and would make requests. If I knew the song I would sing it, if not, my grandmother would help with the words.
I learned to love visiting Granny, and even the smell began to fade. Granny told me once while I was visiting that I had a caring aura. Of course I had no idea what that was at the time, but she told me that I was destined to be a nurse or doctor.
So, as I grew I kept it in the back of my mind that I could care for someone. At 16, I became a CNA, and at 19, I was a nurse. I started my career in long-term care and haven’t looked back. The elderly touched my heart when I was small, and so have the many I have cared for in all these years in all the facilities I have worked in since. Dementia residents have the biggest piece of my heart, for I have an affinity for them. They are like lost children, and as LTC professionals, we are the ones who have to lead them along.
I would not have chosen any other field to enter. Geriatrics stole my heart at 16 and I’ve been married to the specialty ever since.