Monthly Archives: January 2007

Empathy on the job.

“You’re not like the other girls,” D exclaimed, “you are nice.” I was helping her get settled after a walk around the long-term care facility where she resided and where I worked – the longest walk she’d made in weeks.

That was the moment I realized that I enjoyed taking care of the elderly…but when I also realized I couldn’t stay employed as a nursing assistant. Being a nursing assistant in a long-term care facility is difficult work, no doubt about it. My mother did it for over eleven years, earning the praise of many residents. But it is not for everyone.

After seeing both the best and the worst of physicians and nurses and lab technicians after my type 2 diabetes diagnosis earlier that year, I knew I either wanted to be a healthcare provider who made dignity and respect a priority or I did not want to be one at all. Perhaps as a patient with chronic illnesses, I had a little too much empathy for the residents floating around in my head.

I could handle the dirty jobs of cleaning urine, vomit, and feces. I could handle watching someone die slowly. I could handle taking vital signs. All things I had been nervous about when I took the job.

What I couldn’t handle was the loss of dignity and respect I saw throughout the facility. It was all about keeping to the work schedule and not about keeping to the residents’ schedules. While I realize that some tasks needed to be done in a timely manner, I don’t think forcing someone to get up, get out of bed, get to the bathroom, and get dressed in under ten minutes is the best approach. I don’t think shovel feeding a resident is the best approach for someone who may have digestive problems common to the elderly or disabled. All things I hadn’t given a second thought when I took the job.

Maybe in a home healthcare or smaller group home setting, things would have been different with a smaller resident-to-nursing assistant ratio and a relaxed work schedule matching the resident’s schedule. However, I know not everyone is lucky enough to have that option. So for those people, there’s a friendly visitor volunteer candidate ready to serve and her name is Rachel B.


It was a balmy 55 degrees “at home” in Wisconsin today, or so my sources tell me.

Record highs were being recorded in Providence, New York City, and Washington, DC.

Yet, here in Denver, we have been in the midst of another snowstorm. The third snowstorm in as many weeks, in fact…with another on the way next week.

I am so done with winter. I want to hibernate until April, thank you very much.

There is a reason I moved away from the Midwest nearly nine years ago and it is called “60 degrees in January”. It is called “snow melts soon after a big snowstorm” at any given winter moment. But neither of those conditions have happened since late November. All we have is dirty snow piled up a couple feet.

To that, I say…BLAAAHHH.

Funding a thin land and a slow food nation.

No one in the United States can deny there is a growing problem of obesity. Even other countries such as India and China are experiencing a rise in obesity-related illness. It is obvious that it is not a rich man’s problem, either.

What can we do about it? I think there are a few simple solutions here in the United States, after having read books like Fat Land and Fast Food Nation, as well as essays from Anthony Bourdain.

1. Nutrition education. This includes instruction on how to make easy, inexpensive, and nutritious meals at home, as well as encouraging the patronage of non-chain “fast food” restaurants that may use fresher ingredients and fewer preservatives than the run-of-the-mill McDonald’s or Taco Bell provide.

2. Community gardens. A concept that can bring sustainable living to all people. The poor may not be able to afford a house with a yard, but they can grow their own food (and get some exercise while doing it)!

3. Return to funding physical education in public schools. When there are budget cuts, P.E. is often one of the first programs to go. Even if every school provided just 30 minutes of P.E. three days a week for each child, that could go a long way in helping children establish physical activity in their everyday lives.

4. Emphasizing prevention of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension as a first step with those who are considered obese or overweight; providing basic health care (including education) when someone is diagnosed with one of the diseases as a second step to prevent complications in the future.

See, I told you the solutions are simple.

But who pays for it? That’s the conundrum. There are successful programs out there, but it is clear many more people need access to those programs. If you’ve heard of or read about a success story, please comment. I will do a follow-up in a month or two with profiles of success stories.


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