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A light-duty aide's challenges

October 26, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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An aide I will call Emily was hired several weeks ago when she completed the nurse aide class. She finished orientation and only worked on the floor about 10 days when at home she broke a bone in her right hand. That meant the extra pair of hands was off the schedule, and management scrambled to fill Emily's slot. Three weeks later, Emily was came back on light duty. Since this facility seldom has light-duty aides, I was curious to see how things would work out.

Emily needs to work and was eager to come back. The nurse manager felt Emily could assist the other aides and do certain tasks herself utilizing just one hand. Emily is right-handed, but the splint severely limited her use of that hand. Since she could only use her left hand, the aides put her between the dining rooms to direct and redirect residents to their assigned seats. Since a male resident who needs to be fed requires two-handed assistance, Emily was assigned to feed me.

Another aide carried my tray with its drinks to the table. As Emily began to feed me the she told me how difficult it was for her to do things with her left hand. I watched as she struggled to put peanut butter on my toast. She fed me scrambled eggs with a spoon steadying her left arm minimally with her right to improve her aim to my mouth. A couple of times we chuckled at how incongruous the situation was. Emily hoped to get rid of the splint in two weeks.

Emily persevered through her first week feeling frustrated because she frequently had to ask one of the other aides for help. She had to be careful not to jar her splinted right hand. The other aides were tense—not knowing exactly what Emily could comfortably do.

Emily fed me most days. She answered call lights, checked residents and cued them to shower, change clothes and go to meals.

A week or so later, Emily's doctor removed the splint. She was so exuberant she walked right out of his clinic office without picking up her paperwork.

Emily is able is using her right hand despite the aching and swelling that occurs. With the cooperation of the other aides she determined her way through her light-duty experience.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...