Five months ago I did not imagine doing what I am today. Inconceivable isn’t the right word, because the idea did occur to me, eventually and spontaneously. I guess you could call it conceptual moment. Last October I was browsing through Craigslist, looking for nothing in particular other than a part-time job of some sort to boost our monthly household income. I noticed there were a lot of jobs for CNAs working in long-term care. Because I didn’t know what the acronym meant, I had to look it up.
Anyway, as I was going through Craigslist and seeing all those positions for CNAs, the thought occurred to me: I could do that. It wasn’t that I could do one thing as opposed to something else. Rather it was: I will do that. Taking care of elderly people seemed like such a natural thing to do. I did some research into where I could get training and then talked my plan over with Robin, who was supportive of the idea. In fact she said something like: “Maybe you could work at that place down the street.” I’d driven by it hundreds of times without giving it any attention, but there was an adult family home (AFH) in my neighborhood. In my imagination, working there was agreeable and rewarding.
Training as a certified nursing assistant is a first step to nursing school for many people. They can work in the field while going to school. The program is short—three weeks for me—and relatively inexpensive. But I wasn’t thinking of going to nursing school (even now it hasn’t occurred to me: I could do that.) I was just looking for something part-time. Nothing more.
So I enrolled, starting classes on November 19. I was the oldest person in the class of 12 students, although there was one woman in her 50s. The youngest was 19. Training consisted of learning and practicing 24 (or was it 26?) procedures including proper hand washing, changing an occupied bed, taking blood pressure, transferring a person from bed to wheel chair, giving a bed bath, measuring urinary output, and, peri care. Part of the training took place in massive long-term care center where we worked in “memory care.” That’s the contemporary way of referring to the dementia ward. The experience confirmed my first thought that I could do this and eventually do it well.
Meanwhile, I started looking for potential places to work. I created a small database of information on various agencies and care centers in my area that I would apply to once I passed my exams, which I did on December 19. After I applied for my license, I sent an email to the owner of the home in my neighborhood, at the address I found on their website. I never got a reply. I called, too, but the phone just rang and rang and finally disconnected. I put that idea aside and started working on other leads.
I went back to Craigslist where I found an ad for a part-time caregiver at an AFH about 20 minutes from my house. I inquired, then sent my résumé on request. In reply I learned they don’t usually hire people with no experience, but she did ask why I wanted to be a CNA. The door was entirely closed, so I stated my case. Curiously—and it could have been a coincidence—the person I was corresponding with had the same name as the person who owned the AFH in my neighborhood.
Yet it was no coincidence. The owner, an RN, had recently opened a second adult family home, the one I answered the ad for. After exchanging a couple more emails, I gained an interview then a job in the very place I’d imagined myself working just a couple of months earlier. A staff shift between the two homes opened the spot for me. My first day at work was New Years Eve, and I’m there three days a week. So far it’s been agreeable and rewarding. And I walk to work too, something I’ve never been able to do before.