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Being a great caregiver means being selfless

older adults sitting using resistance bands to exercise

Experience Care spoke with Lois Jordan at their recent Nebraska Conference on what makes a great caregiver and employee?  Here is the interview: 

According to Lois Jordan, although nationally there are staffing challenges in Long Term care, there are several personal attributes she finds that are deeply rooted in employees finding a “home” in healthcare for older adults. 

Ms. Jordan has a unique backstory which began in rural Minnesota. “Well, many years ago I started with a healthcare interest in high school. My mom was a nurse, and she worked in a nursing home in a small rural town in Minnesota. So, I sort of grew up with nursing homes in my life. I have a twin sister and she and I both took our CNA class, and we actually had our test on our 16th birthday. We passed and then we both worked as CNAs all through high school. I also worked as a CNA through LPN school and then continued to obtain my RN all while working in long term care. It (working in long term care) grows on you.”

“I also knew working and being around that industry and being around older individuals was something that was very fulfilling, even at a young age. I had a great deal of respect for our elders, and so working with them just filled my bucket.”

Today of course, Lois finds herself on the employer side, still looking for those candidates who want their “bucket filled” by working with older adults. “You have to care deeply for other individuals. Being a caregiver is something that I think just comes second nature to people.

Caregivers need to give selflessly, and I've talked about that with our staff. You’re definitely there to put your needs aside and focus on what somebody else would need. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. It's rewarding and challenging,” she stated, adding, “You find your calling, and it's not just a job. It becomes who you are.”

Being and becoming selfless is so important in caring for older adults and for investing in a career in long term care. Lois recalled how, “Years ago, I encountered a young individual who was a resident in our nursing home. Unfortunately, her Multiple Sclerosis had progressed to the point where she needed 24-hour care.”

“She was a lovely individual who needed to be very particular about the care she received, especially her positioning. Everybody was scared to work with her because they didn't know if they'd do it right and she'd sure tell them if they didn't, but I knew that if I could just take my time and listen to what she wanted, she would be comfortable.”

“By being patient and selfless, putting her needs before mine, I learned so much from her and why it was so important that her arm be just right and that her leg was just right. Caring for her made a huge impact in my life. Helping her be comfortable was within my control and it was my responsibility to do the right thing for her sake.”

“I carry these values with me today and share them with all our staff. It is so important that we do the right thing for each resident and that takes caring deeply for other individuals. Being a caregiver takes a unique set of skills.Caregivers must give selflessly, put their own needs aside and focus on what the older adult would need, what their family needs and what their co-workers need. If they can do that, they will be the individuals we all want on our team.”

Long term care has definitely shifted over the years. It encompasses person-centered care that is as individualized as each resident. Lois states that, “It's invigorating and challenging at the same time. You will find purpose and satisfaction in a career caring for others. It’s not just a job; it becomes who you are.”

These attributes are not only found in the nursing field, but also in every department Lois oversees. From facility operations to dining services, transportation, procurement, pharmacy and administration, every one of the members on her team exhibit specific qualities of caring for those they serve each day. Lois has a dear friend, Susan, whom she shares, “Susan is also a nurse who started out working as a CNA as well, but she really exemplified what it is to care for others.

Susan goes back to the basics, finding out what each individual needs. She thinks through what she’s doing and uses good common sense. This is just Susan’s character to be genuinely caring, and that exemplifies an ideal caregiver. She is someone we’d all want caring for our own loved ones.”

A lot has changed since Lois started as a 16-year-old CNA in her rural Minnesota hometown. “It has certainly evolved over the years. When I started out as a CNA, a gentleman moved into our nursing home at that time simply because he was lonely. He was a recent widower and his children were grown and moved away. He just wanted to be around other people. He probably didn't have any medical needs at all, other than his social isolation.”

“Now the long-term care industry is so regulated that it's not possible to admit somebody to a nursing home who is just lonely. So that's unfortunate.

Long term care recently has seen an increase in the homeless populations. Lois sees this every day. “I'm seeing more homelessness, or near homelessness. More and more individuals are moving into our assisted living who have been homeless for a number of months. It's really heart-wrenching to see at that stage in their life how they've had to struggle so much for basic needs. This is why our selfless caring professionals are so important. When individuals come to live with us, it’s so very rewarding to be able to give them a safe, loving home. I am so grateful we are still here to be that home for them. If we can give them a joy filled life, we are living our mission.