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Young caring for the old

Certified nurse aide students connect with elderly

News editor

It was different world she was about to walk into, and despite her training, Emily Timmermeyer was, in a word, “terrified.”

“You watch the videos in class, but this was the first time to touch a patient; I was nervous,” she said.

So, too, were fellow certified nurse aide students Barrett Smith and Kaylie Stapleford. None had ever interacted much with elderly people, so they didn’t know what to expect when they started hands-on clinical work at Parkside Home in Hillsboro.

“I don’t think I ever talked to older people,” Smith said. “I never knew how to approach them.”

Stapleford added: “You can’t really prepare yourself how you’re going to react. Then all of a sudden it clicks.”

The trio of high school seniors — Timmermeyer of Peabody-Burns, Smith of Centre, and Stapleford of Marion — were among 12 Butler Community College students who completed certified nurse aid clinical work this weekend.

Over the course of their time at Parkside, nervousness gave way to confidence, understanding, and concern.

“I never thought I would get attached to anybody, but you meet the residents, and they’re so nice,” Timmermeyer said. “You get attached easily. They’re uplifting and funny and they have so many stories.”

Smith connected with residents by learning about their interests, ranging from artistic talents to memorabilia they kept in their rooms. As he learned about them, he learned to communicate.

“You can get through to almost anyone, even if they have a major mental disability and forget,” he said. “It seems like they always understand eventually. All you have to do is show up with a good attitude.”

Students agreed that building relationships with residents was essential; Alzheimer’s and dementia often made that difficult.

“Some of them can’t remember who you are,” Stapleford said. “When you come back, it’s like, ‘There’s a new one again.’ I had someone tell me she wanted to go home. It’s hard to tell them they can’t.”

Some residents, often women, resist getting assistance from male aides, Smith said.

Sometimes the resistance stems from modesty; getting help with personal care from a man isn’t comfortable for them, he said. Other times they may confuse him with someone from their past with whom they had a bad experience. When a patient is uncomfortable, Smith steps back and lets another aide help.

He did discover one edge he had over his female co-workers.

“It’s way easier for me to move residents,” he said. “I think that’s the only advantage about being a guy.”

Whatever their challenges, the key to working with residents is respect, Timmermeyer said.

“You do feel for them,” she said. “You have lost some of your dignity being in here, but we try to give that back to them as much as we possibly can. We’re not just here to do our work and leave.”

Sunday might not have been the last time Stapleford and Smith see the residents; both have applied for jobs at Parkside. Timmermeyer, who lives in Elbing, said she’ll likely look for a position in Newton.

Before any of them take a job, however, they have to pass a state certification exam. Course instructor Virginia Hammond said she didn’t expect that to be a problem for any of her students.

“These guys are like sponges, and they have very good retention,” Hammond said. “I give hard tests. If they pass my tests, they’ll pass the state’s.”

This was the fifth CNA class Hammond has taught, and she said it was “one of the best.”

“By the time it’s over you know each of their personalities, and you like each one for who they are,” she said. “They all have something to contribute, and it makes for one big cohesive group.

“I’m gonna miss those kids.”

Last modified July 16, 2015

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