Unsung Hero: Masking Logistics in Elderly Care

by Ben Smith on March 08, 2024

The alarm clock is my nemesis, yanking me from beachside dreams to the familiar embrace of scrubs and the Pinewood Senior Center—a mix of excitement and "oh no, not again" bubbles in my stomach. As I prepare for the day, I try to remember that every day brings laughter, challenges, and the quiet satisfaction of caring for our amazing residents. I grab my coffee and keys and head out the door.

First up: medication rounds. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Today, Mrs. Ramirez's heart meds are MIA. I dial the pharmacy, bracing myself for the dreaded, "We're running a bit behind." Frustration flares – timely meds are crucial for Mrs. Ramirez, and this is only my second patient out of twelve needing medication before 9:00 AM! But then, I remembered the new inventory system we had implemented. A few clicks later, I find the meds at a nearby pharmacy and order them electronically. She may get them a little late, but she'll get them! Relief washes over me – even minor improvements can make a world of difference.

The rest of the day is a whirlwind. I take a short minute to help Mr. Hernandez with his morning exercises, his booming laughter echoing down the hall. I quickly assist Mrs. Lee with a video call to her grandkids, their faces lighting up her own. This short time makes my job worthwhile. I peek in on the physical therapist helping Mrs. Cramer adjust her brace. Her left knee has been painful for the past three days, and I hope this helps. But amidst the heartwarming moments, the staffing shortage looms large. I scramble to do my duties and help others with theirs. An unexpected call-out for the afternoon shift means I'm juggling extra tasks, and the pressure is building.

Just as I feel like a rubber band stretching too thin, there's a knock on the nurse's station's door. It's a community center volunteer offering to help with bingo this afternoon. Her smile and willingness to lend a hand instantly lighten the mood – mine and the residents who thought this would be canceled. I'll be able to finish my documentation for the day and maybe even have a cup of coffee as I do it! This unexpected act of kindness reminds me of our incredible support system – a testament to the power of community in overcoming challenges.

As she gathers the residents together for the game, I take the time to check the linen inventory. I find that we have only three towels and no underpads left! It's only three o'clock in the afternoon, so where is the stock for this evening and tomorrow? I check with the loading dock to hear that the truck has broken down an hour away and they won't be able to send a replacement delivery until tomorrow morning! The supply manager at the loading dock has already called a nearby facility that will send some of their extra linens to help us until then. Whew!

Since the pandemic, it seems as though we've lost half of our staff. Two of the registered nurses (RNs) went on early retirement, another licensed practical nurse (LPN) left to move to another job, and our certified nursing assistants (CNAs) for the day shift are grumbling about the extra work expected because the company has downsized to only two CNAs for each shift. That makes their patient loads to fifteen patients each! Getting the patients up, dressed, and to their meals in the dining room on time is overwhelming! The day shift has a part-time CNA who comes in three days a week, but the other two days, they are on their own. The nurses do not want to lose their support staff, so we try to help out where we can. This only increases our tasks as well! We are a tight-knit group, and we've worked together for many years. Just knowing we have each other's backs helps the gnawing uncertainty of change so much.

No increase in pay for the last three years has only made things more challenging. Again, because of the pandemic and the extra precautions associated with it, the staff has had to wait on raises. The company keeps telling us it is in the works, but so far, nothing. They have been providing a complementary meal to the staff since then, which is served when the cafeteria is free from the morning resident diners. The evening shift gets a continental-style snack cart and drinks on their rotation. We work twelve-hour shifts, so a quick bite to eat always helps the energy reserves. This is a nice perk, but hopefully, pay increases will be coming soon.

As the sun sets, I reflect on the emotional rollercoaster. The frustration of missing meds and linens and the stress of being short-staffed are all balanced by the heartwarming connections and unwavering dedication of my colleagues and volunteers; it's demanding but deeply rewarding, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

The future of senior care is bright. We can create a smoother, more compassionate environment by acknowledging and addressing the logistical hurdles we face. Imagine a world where medication deliveries are seamless, adequate staffing and innovative solutions streamline daily tasks. This future is possible, but it requires teamwork and a shared commitment to prioritizing the well-being of our elderly population.

Together, we can be the unsung heroes, not just masking the challenges but actively working towards a brighter future for senior care. Let's ensure every Mrs. Ramirez gets her meds on time, every Mr. Hernandez has the support he needs, and every resident feels the warmth of a caring community. The journey won't be easy, but the rewards are immeasurable.