Joy, family and grief in MINDSville@Napiri Home
All it takes is a smile or burst of laughter from her family to make Ms Yin Cho’s day. By “family member,” however, she does not mean her blood relatives, but the Persons with Intellectual Disability (PWIDs) at MINDSville@Napiri Home (MV Home).
As a Senior Enrolled Nurse at MV Home, Yin Cho’s main responsibilities include helping residents with everyday tasks such as eating, bathing, routine temperature checks, administering medications and more. Building relationships is not officially on the job scope, but having worked at MV Home since 2007, Yin Cho has inevitably formed a close bond with the long-term residents she cares for, affectionately referring to them as her family.
“The residents are so cute, so, so cute,” she repeats as she excitedly waves her hands. A broad smile spreads across her face as she describes how they residents call out for her attention when she walks past. Clasping her hands to her chest, she enthuses: “When I hug them, they are happy, and seeing them happy makes me happy too!”
A Passion for Nursing
The instinct to care comes naturally for the 45-year-old, whose interest in the nursing profession began at a young age. Yin Cho shares that she was fascinated by the white uniforms of nurses at the hospital, and when she saw how reliably they tended to patients’ needs, she knew she wanted to do the same. Today, although she’s dressed in blue, it is safe to say that she has succeeded.
15 years into her role at MINDS, the exhaustion of shift work and the challenges that come with working with PWIDs who are non-verbal do not faze her. The experienced nurse has developed a keen sense of what each resident requires—whether a hug or something to eat—just by their gestures and facial expressions. And just like the nurses from that inspired her in the past, she, too, is quick to attend to their emotional and physical needs.
Treating Each Resident like Family
Yin Cho adds that treating the residents like family is especially important to her because she has 8 siblings of her own. She communicates with them almost daily and cannot imagine life without their mutual support in the challenges they face.
At MV Home, however, “the residents do not have family around them,” she explains. “They cannot manage alone, and depend a lot on us, so I must care for them with all of my heart,” she emphatically declares.
Love Comes with Loss
Yet, seeing someone as family inevitably means opening one’s heart to grief and loss when they eventually leave the world. Indeed, Yin Cho’s cheerful demeanour begins to fade as she remembers the residents that have passed on. Her animated gesturing stops, and her expression darkens as she relives the experience of losing those important to her.
She shares that over the course of her work, she has seen more than 10 residents pass away due to illness and old age. Particularly heart breaking for her was one incident when a resident who had appeared to be in good health suddenly passed away in her bed.
As the conversation slows and the pauses in between her storytelling become longer, it is apparent that time has not numbed her to the raw sense of grief and loss that comes with death. Each departure hurts as much as the last.
Finding Strength for the Future
Being able to talk about residents that have left and reminisce about the good times they shared is crucial to finding comfort and closure, Yin Cho says. To cope, she turns to her family—both her colleagues at MV Home and her siblings—to help her process her thoughts.
She’s also careful not to wallow in her grief for too long. “I remind myself that those who have passed away are in a better place now and that before they died, I tried to give them the best care possible,” she shares. “I also tell myself to stay strong because I still have other residents to care for. Even though some have left, others are still here and need me.”
“I love the residents and they love us,” she says as an explanation for her strength. To her, it is this love that makes MINDSville@Napiri home, and that sustains her through the challenges of each day.
As we salute our nurses and care staff for their selflessness and dedication to those under their care, we remember the clients who have journeyed with us over the years and the marks they have left in our hearts.
We recognise the challenges that families may face as they struggle to give PWIDs, especially those who are elderly and require high levels of support, the care that they need as they age. At MINDSville@Napiri Home, residents are cared for by a multidisciplinary team a providing them with quality care they deserve, and to create a place they can safely call home.
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