The Caregiver

caregiver

 

 
I worked in two different nursing homes during age16 through 22 and they both left many lasting impressions on me. I started out in the kitchen but quickly found myself on the floor flirting with the nurses and the aides, which earned me jobs like vacuuming and helping wherever. I did any shit work the nurses could find for me, like helping with enema’s. That wasn’t the end of the shit either. I was given caretaker charge of a man confined to a wheelchair who had a severe stroke. Bathed him, shaved him, and dressed him. He was young enough to be embarrassed having female aides do the chores so I became the best part of his morning when I worked that shift.

 
Archaic living statues
Wearing ancient masks
Reflective and forlorn
Performing aimless tasks
Not conscious of the world
But conscious of their fate
They have nothing to do
So they wait
Its all they do
All night, all day
Its all they have left
Even the memories begin to fade
The tears they paid
So they wait
They wait for me
The caregiver
For sustenance
For medication
They praise my dedication
All they have left is to wait
To be told what to do
They wait for me, caregiver
The one who holds their heart together
Informs them of the weather
They wait for me forever
Sometimes I come in the morn
Wake them from their sleeps
Change the wet sheets
Dress them for the day
Give them their pills
Chase their blues away
The way in which we planned
Breakfast tray in hand
Sometimes I come in the afternoon
Put on their favorite show
Just let them know
Someone cares
Then I wait to go home
To a life so removed
From the pain and the heartache
Of the aging machine
The horrors I’ve seen
Time can be so mean
Memories broken like in a dream
These grand folks I cherished
I watch as they perish
But each day I come back for a little while
Covering profound sadness with a smile
Knowing what’s on their minds
Though they really can’t define
They just wait
But its not the food, medicine or even me they sit in anticipation of
They’re waiting to die
And that makes me cry

 

The nurses told us not to get emotionally attached to the patients but we had so many favorites, cute old people who were left up to our care because fore the most part their families abandoned them. I was struck by how much they looked forward to our shifts as though they were visits, how we brightened what little life still sparkled behind their eyes, and I realized we were more than caretakers of their health, we were caretakers of their hearts. Ironically they in turn helped to fill our hearts up with love and gratitude. It was like having 20 of my grandma’s back, and I would give anything for just one more day with my Grandma. I would be happy to be her caregiver.

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2 thoughts on “The Caregiver

  1. Keith, this touched my heart. I worked as a nurse for 20 plus years. Yes we do have favorites it can’t be helped, it is what makes it easier to keep doing our jobs.When I burnt out more so after loosing 4 family members in less then a year. I could not grieve them until I could separate my heart from work to my family. It took years. Thank you for sharing the gift of your words.

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