Read- 1189 Long Term Care Worker's Powerful Statment

   "I've been asking CNAs to write statements and stories about their situation since the pandemic started. This one came to me recently out of Chisholm, on the Iron Range. I thought this one illustrated beautifully what the members in this position do, and why they are so crushed by what they are experiencing with not only themselves, but their residents. We need to keep looking for solutions and sources of hope for these workers!" - Adam Evenstad, Union Representative from the Duluth Office

Read Paige's experience in her own words below

         Working as a nursing assistant has never been an easy job. Caring for the elderly is both physically and mentally challenging. Every day, nursing assistants spend the most one-on-one time with the residents compared to all employees in the facility. We are responsible for dressing our residents, feeding them, bathing them, and assisting them in using the bathroom. I have endured a lot of pain working as a CNA the past few years, both physically and mentally. I have held my residents’ hands as they have taken their last breaths and held family members in my arms as they mourn the loss of their loved ones, ensuring them that I never left their side. I have sat with my residents as they shed tears, scared of where the road was taking them, confused about why they are alone in an unfamiliar new home, and frustrated at the fact that they are no longer able to care for themselves. I have spent many holidays with my residents when their families do not show up to be with them, and I have boughten gifts for those who go without. I have spent many of my days off visiting my residents, going to the grocery stores for them, and even dying their hair in my free time.

            I worked through every outbreak of COVID-19, when the case numbers, both state-wide and county-wide, were skyrocketing. Every day at work, I wore a mask, gloves, gown, and eye goggles. I clocked out after my shift with dry, cracked, bloody hands from so much handwashing and sanitizing. Through fogged goggles and with gloved hands, I was still there, not worried about my own well-being or contracting COVID, but worried that my residents would. I lost many of my residents to the pandemic. I worked through the worst of it, when nearly every resident on my hall tested positive for COVID, and eventually testing positive myself, for a $2 an hour pay increase, only for a month. I was there, on the front lines, risking my health and that of my family, only to still feel unappreciated.

I have had every bodily fluid on my skin, I have been spat on, vomited on, urinated on, defecated on, and bled on. I have been exposed to many diseases, viruses, and infections. I have been kicked, punched, slapped, pinched, scratched, and have even had objects thrown at me while trying to care for my residents. I have formed deep bonds with many of my residents, despite learning in class that you should not, because when you spend almost every day with someone, you begin to care for them and love them like your own family. I have become close with many family members of my residents, who know almost every employee in my facility by name. I have spent hours listening to my residents talk about their families, their friends, and the beautiful memories that they have made throughout their life. I have listened to stories of serving in the military, marriage and divorce, childbirth and loss of a child. There are many residents that I know like the back of my hand, even some that came to call me their granddaughter after years of caring for them and spending nearly every day with them. There have been many days when I left work with tears pouring out of me, heartbroken when one of my residents passes on. There have been days when I have left work after a 16-hour shift, muscles so sore that I can barely move. Almost every day, I leave my job wishing that I could do more. I wish that I had more one-on-one time with my residents. I wish that I could read stories to my residents who are blind and sing with my residents who love music. I wish I could paint their nails and curl their hair. I wish I could do more to make their home, in the nursing home, genuinely feel like home.

No matter how much I wish I could do, the heart-wrenching truth is that I physically cannot. Nursing homes everywhere are short-staffed. Certified nursing assistants are being over-worked and underpaid, and I can speak for many more aides than just myself when I say that we feel very much under-appreciated. We are working short-staffed; some shifts we only have one aide to 20+ residents. There is not enough time in an eight-hour shift to give the proper care to 20+ residents when you are by yourself, when one resident needs their water pitcher filled, another needs to use the bathroom, another needs to put their pajamas on and lie down, and there are five other call lights waiting to be answered. The truth of the matter is, I know that it is not just my facility that is struggling. I know that CNA’s throughout our nation are tired, I know that we are all burnt out. I also know that we need help. We need someone, somewhere, to hear our cries for help and at the very least, attempt to give it to us.

I knew what I was signing up for when I applied for my job. I knew that it would be both physically and mentally draining, and it has proven to be just that. Despite the hardships that I am faced with during every shift, I still tell people who ask me about my job that it is both the most difficult, and most rewarding job on earth. I do my best to make a difference in the lives of my residents, and I know that I do. With that being said, I also know that to my facility, I am just a number. I will be replaced when I leave, as if I were never there to begin with. I know that alone, I cannot change the standard in nursing homes. I cannot provide care to the best extent, the extent of care that every one of my residents deserves, on my own. I cannot increase our pay and I cannot increase our staff. I cannot make the difference alone. It truly is my hope that wherever this excerpt travels, and whoever the audience is that it may reach, that I can help make a difference. I hope that my story and my cry for help is heard, and most importantly, that it is answered.

Paige Mammenga

UFCW Local 1189 Union Member