Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice recognizes LNAs during National Nursing Assistants Week
CONWAY — Peter Lake was a world traveler and high-tech worker, born and raised in Massachusetts. His travels took him to faraway places, including Russia, China, Australia and Malaysia. Now there is no place like home for this 67-year-old resident of Conway, who is able to live independently despite serious chronic health issues, thanks to the support of licensed nursing assistants.
These professionals work through Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County and Western Maine and help hundreds of community members stay in their homes and receive life-saving and sustaining care.
Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice hopes to build awareness for this vital service during National Nursing Assistants Week.
National Nursing Assistants Week, taking place June 13-20, is dedicated to recognizing the efforts of nursing assistants — LNAs (licensed nursing assistants) and CNAs (certified nursing assistants). Much of Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice’s patient care is provided by these dedicated professionals.
Lake, who inherited a degenerative eye disease, welcomed visitors to his tidy apartment in Conway Village recently to talk about the care he receives from these professionals, whom he describes as lifesavers. They come to his home two or three times a week to give personal care, shop for groceries and help with homemaking.
Audrey Russell, LNA, is his primary home health aid.
"She’s an angel, that one. When she’s done with medical stuff, she moves on to the kitchen. She is one hell of a hard worker," he said.
Russell explained how she got into this line of work.
“Originally, when I first started, I answered an ad to care for the elderly as a homemaker," she said. "I always liked working with older people and helping people out. I took the LNA class and enjoyed it and have been doing it ever since. It’s been almost 32 years!”
When asked what she likes about her job, Russell explains that it’s about the personal interactions with those she cares for.
“I definitely enjoy the conversations," she said. "We get talking about current events, things going on, growing up here, how things used to be in the town. I was born at Memorial Hospital and was brought up here. I listen if they’ve got something going on with a family member, being a sounding board. Not everyone has someone to talk to. It’s more than just a job. You have to like people, and appreciate who they are, and to be a giving person.”
Lake explained the role Russell plays in his life, "I’ve been receiving services for six years. She gives me my independence. I am legally blind.” His vision is compromised to the point that he uses a large-screen TV that doubles as his computer monitor, which lets him stay in touch with friends around the world.
“They run to the store for me, help me get my medications and help manage my diabetes. But more than that, they saved my life. Two years ago I had pneumonia. When they arrived, they found me on the floor. Without these nursing assistants, I wouldn't be here now.”
While much of their work with clients is clinical in nature, it also plays a crucial role in the emotional health and social aspects of care. Lake said, “It’s nice to have a good laugh. It breaks up the day.”
Lake described how his mother, who inherited the same type of blindness, ended up in an assisted living home, an outcome he is not ready for. He loves the self-sufficiency and choices his own home gives him, whether it’s watching a late-night TV show or having guests visit or stay overnight. He described his blindness as a “hit to my psyche” and he is glad to be able to remain independent.
Lake wants others in the community to know about the amazing care he receives at home through Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice.
“Quality of life can be helped by (these services). In the long run, it’s cheaper than assisted living," he said. "Others should know these services are available. More people should ask. It can help so many. It’s nice to have someone go through my mail with me, have a nice conversation and a laugh. Everyone needs a laugh now and again!”
Russell concurred, “A lot of times, unless people end up in the hospital, they are not aware of the services. People don’t always know what’s available or tuned into it. We all work together to try to keep everyone in their home. People thrive better in their own home.”
VNHCH Executive Director Sandy Ruka understands the value that LNAs give to their clients.
“The reward of easing pain and helping with daily tasks is highly motivating for LNAs," she said. "They are committed to caring for others. What an amazing calling in life.”
VNHCH provides training and support for their nursing assistants, a benefit that is appreciated by their staff. Russell added, “VNHCH is a great resource for me. We have training for different aspects of the job. We just had an in-service for diabetes and oxygen. Everyone in the office is great, there is always someone to call if you have a problem or a question. You are never alone.”