Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Nobody's Home: Candid Reflections of a Nursing Home Aide

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Nobody's Home: Candid Reflections of a Nursing Home Aide

Article excerpt

Nobody's Home: Candid Reflections of a Nursing Home Aide by Thomas Edward Gass; Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004; 189 pages, $14.95 (sofi cover)

Profound, honest, and sometimes unnerving insights characterize this unique and mesmerizing text. Consider the following: "A nursing home is a repository for normal people who have become difficult to handle or difficult to look at....Inside a nursing home are many aspects of ordinary life grown unsightly by the onslaught of wear and tear....If you live long enough in America there is a very good chance that what goes on within these walls will become your life" (p. 26). And, "Compassion respects the adult as an adult, as well as comforting the vulnerable parts within a wounded soul. Compassion also shows equal respect for the doer; we must have compassion for ourselves in equal measure....Compassion is both intimate and respectful, easing pain while honoring our commonality" (p. 188).

The author, who possesses a degree in psychology and has lived and worked in many different countries, entered the world of long-term care as a nursing assistant after caring for his dying mother. As the world's most unlikely nursing assistant, he used his skills of reflective awareness to process the often surreal experiences he encountered. This book is not the product of research, and Gass does not pretend to have expertise in the area of long-term care. Instead, the result of his intense reflections is a memoir of life in a Midwestern nursing home with descriptions and insights that are witty, sassy, sensitive, and sometimes cynical. The residents of the home, their families, and the staff are described in ways that depict their pathos but maintain their dignity.

Gass literally takes us by the hand and introduces us to those who populate his nursing home. We feel his love for residents and share his curiosity and delight in their stories. We witness his attempts to recognize and respect the personhood of all residents, especially those with dementia. We meet nurses and aides who spend their own money to obtain needed items that the facility is unable, or unwilling, to provide. And we witness the conflicting reactions of families, most of whom have tried to care for their loved ones at home, admitting them to the nursing home only after their resources are exhausted.

We run beside Gass as he plays "beat the clock," washing, dressing, toileting, and feeding his residents. …

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