Spot Light: Face, Hands & Butts?

Much of the work we do is aimed at keeping our residents clean, dry, fed, toileted and hydrated. We focus on these things because it is OUR job. There are other things though, that often get lost in the daily shuffle. I work for an agency as a part time job (as well as a full time job at a rehab facility) and through my experiences here, I’ve seen a lot of rushed care and the results of it.

When working short, there’s a saying among aides: Face, Hands and Butts. FHB. This means that our time should be spent washing faces, hands and butts and the rest can go unattended. This isn’t ideal but it is the reality when we’re pressed for time.

Even when our units are well staffed I have seen some pretty poor quality cares that leave me wondering if some of us cannot put ourselves in our residents’ shoes…

No matter how short staffed, we must always consider resident dignity.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Complete bed baths, whirlpools and showers can be postponed.

Washing faces doesn’t mean simply wetting a wash cloth and wiping it over a face. It means using gentle soaps/cleansers. It means using another wash cloth dampened with water, to rinse off the soap. It means paying close attention to the eye areas, removing the residue and drainage we often see. It means making sure noses are clean and the area around mouths is clean as well. Shave the men.

Oral care MUST always happen- how would YOU feel if your teeth weren’t brushed???

Care must be given to underarms. They need to be washed, rinsed, dried. If needed, a light coat of deodorant is called for. Body odor is a major dignity issue for our residents.

Hands have to be washed. Period. Several times each shift. Nail care can wait, unless they are long and ragged or dirty.

Incontinent care has to happen. Buts and other areas MUST be cleaned. Period. No skimping here.

I can’t count the times I have witnessed residents being brought out with messy hair, or worse, with hair dos that are not becoming to them. Ladies like to look presentable. Imagine how you would feel with greasy, slicked back hair…it’s up to US to make hair look nice. Hair should be combed/brushed no matter what; if ladies’ hair is permed, a little spritz with some water often works wonders to bring back some curl.

Clothing choices? It usually doesn’t matter when it comes to staffing issues. Residents have clothes and we assist them with dressing. BUT what does matter is matching colors at best and avoiding clashes at worst: Striped shirts do not go with plaid pants! Just like an elegant fluffy blouse doesn’t go with sweatpants. Some of our male residents prefer to wear t shirts under their tops; and MOST of our ladies like to wear bras. Don’t skimp on this.

A quick note about briefs: For the residents who use them, we have to ensure they are correctly applied. The right size is paramount. Too big a brief is not only wasteful but a major cause of discomfort. Small briefs often lead to nasty red marks in the groin areas. Make sure the brief is centered, and the front portions are pulled up enough to allow for movement. Don’t let the brief bunch up anywhere.

Residents who use wheelchairs need special attention for comfort AND skin issues. This is a no brainer but I have seen countless times, bunched up shirts in the back and sides. Pants that are wedged up in front. We need to make sure these things don’t happen. Take the time to pull down tops once a resident is positioned in their W/C; fix the wedgies and pull down the lower parts of pants. Make sure the resident is seated properly and is comfortable.

As much as most of us don’t like providing less than ideal care, we can do so on shifts where we just don’t have time. Assignments are often increased with two or three residents when there’s been a call out. Always check with the charge nurse about your priorities when staffing is an issue. Better yet, ask the nurse for a meeting with all the aides on the shift, to plan ahead for those times.

Always consider safety, comfort and dignity. Some will say not always in that order, either.

SPOT LIGHT: 7 Tips To Deal Effectively With Difficult Residents

We’ve all been assigned to cranky, demanding rude residents/patients. You know them: Mean, belittling people who have elevated themselves above all others in level of need. Not just pillow fluffers, these residents demand strict attention to minute details not because the attention is necessary but because the resident believes they are entitled to it. Resident families can be just as hard to work with. I’m not sure who is worse: The demanding resident or the demanding family member. Regardless, here are 7 tips on working effectively with the Mrs. Cranky’s of the world:

Check on the demanding resident 1st thing: Once you know you’re assigned to Mrs. Cranky, go to her room and check with her right away. Let her know you’re her aide.

Ask her if she has any special requests for today: Perhaps she wants her bath later in the morning; or she isn’t feeling well and would like to skip breakfast. Or maybe she has guests coming and would like to wear the hard-to-don red dress. By asking her what her plans are for the day, you are giving her a real say in how her day will go. Based upon her feedback, schedule your workflow to accommodate Mrs. Cranky’s needs. This does not mean you neglect your other residents.

It is perfectly acceptable to let Mrs. Cranky know that your other assigned residents have the same needs as she does. Make it clear that you are responsible to others and that you cannot cut back on time they need. You can say all this in a polite, professional and caring manner. Even further, I would let Mrs. Cranky know the order in which you will tend to her care. Give APPROXIMATE time frames. By doing this, you are alerting her that you hold your other residents’ needs just as high as hers.

Unless she is your first resident, check in with Mrs. cranky every so often. Anticipate her needs. Use your knowledge of her demands as a tool: If you know she usually rings the bell at 10am for bathroom use, be one step ahead of her and show up in her room at 9:55am to see if she needs the toilet…

5) TALK!
When performing actual cares for Mrs. Cranky, listen to her if she speaks. If she is rude or insulting you, let her know that this offends you! Tell her that her words hurt your feelings. By doing this, you put her on notice that you won’t stand for rude remarks and the like. Try to find some common interests to talk about- this shows her that you do have a genuine interest in her. Ask her about pictures she has; ask her where she has traveled in her life; ask her questions about HER LIFE in en effort to show your curiosity. If she answers your questions positively, GOOD! Keep aiming for this positive energy. If she continues to gripe and complain, remain quiet. Don’t ignore her, but ignore the negativity.

If Mrs. Cranky seems upset or angry, while doing her care, ask her if something is bothering or upsetting her. Sometimes people are uptight or nervous about things and take it out on the nearest person. If she expresses sadness let her know she can speak with you about those things and offer to pass on her concerns to others as needed. Let her know she can trust you. If she is angry at her family, offer to speak with the nurse to see about a family meeting. If she is mad at other staff, listen but don’t give any feedback. Give her attention for her positive words and say little about her negative words.

During the shift,after her care is completed, check in with Mrs. Cranky. Again, ANTICIPATE her needs! When you take a break, let her know. By doing this you are letting her know you care about her. At the end of the day, if appropriate, check in with Mrs. Cranky one last time. Ask her if she needs anything. Ask her how she thinks her day went- and what could be done to make it better. When we ask people to help us with planning schedules and work flows, it’s amazing how much feedback we get! It’s always appropriate to say goodbye and other polite remarks.

Spot Light: The Resident’s Unit- A Reflection on the CNA

Hey CNA’s, did you know your residents’ units are a reflection upon you?

Sure, the resident usually gets to decide where their personal belongings go, and some of them get really mad if you tamper with anything. While we need to be respectful of our residents preferences, we can do much to keep their unit, their home, neat and organized and safe.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
When you’re giving care, it’s helpful to have all your supplies ready. Basins, soap, linens, powder and lotion and all the other items should be on hand so you don’t need to leave the room once you begin giving care. Most of us use an over-the-bed-table for all these items- it’s perfect for the tasks at hand. The table can be raised and lowered to suit people of all heights, and it’s pretty portable. Often, we make a mess on this surface: water, soapy residue, wet linens are placed here. When you’re done, clean off the table with wet cloths and then dry it. If possible, use a sanitizer.

When we’re giving showers or baths, we need to think NEAT as well. Counters next to sinks, shower rails and other surfaces should be cleaned up after the tasks are finished; personal care items should be put away and not left on the shower stall rails…if a bottle of shampoo tips over and spills we have a created a HUGE fall hazard, not to mention the waste. As for the bathroom itself: Think neat and orderly. Most nursing home bathrooms now have drawers where each resident can keep their personal care items separate from the roommates’ items. Look at the belongings: are hair brushes and combs and toothbrushes and other things dated and labeled? Can you tell who owns what toothbrush? Look at the basins and emesis basins especially! Rinse them out and make sure they are CLEAN. Keeping the counters clear of clutter reduces the chances of mix ups and loss of items.

When your resident is up and out of bed, and hopefully out of the room to activities, go back and make sure the unit is neat, clean and hazard free.

The Bed: Clean linens, wrinkle free, lowered to it’s lowest position and locked. Always. Make sure the linens have no holes and are fray free. One thing most of us know but a few do not: USE YOUR BARE HAND to check sheets, pads and blankets for wetness. A gloved hand cannot always FEEL wet linens; sometimes we cannot SEE urine stains (especially when they’re wet). Sadly, we also need to check UNDER the pads…often the sheet is wet under and for the same gloved hands reason, aides from previous shifts don’t know the sheets are wet. This leads to the famous brown stain syndrome; and odors. Finally, step back and LOOK around the bed. Under the bed. Up around the headboard…look for objects, pillows, missing items (how many times have we found a set of false teeth or a pair of eye glasses under a bed?) Look for hazards- sharp objects, frayed area rugs, broken wheel parts to the bed.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The Bed Side Table: Clear off YOUR junk. That means the lotions, wipes, foam sprays, ect ect. Find a place for these items that is out of sight yet easily accessible. It is always OK to leave a box of gloves out though- we never know when we will need them. One box is good for most of the unit though. Briefs, blue chux pads and the like do not need to be laid out either. Put them all away. Show your resident some dignity. And clean off the surface with a wet cloth, again sanitizing is best.

The Dresser: Again, like the Bed Side Table, keep this area free of YOUR STUFF. This is the residents space, not yours. Remember that. If they have knick knacks and other personal items here, be extremely cognizant of this. Treat these items with the highest respect- be careful. Be thoughtful. DON’T BREAK ANYTHING! If you work for a facility that offers consistent assignment, chances are you will have the same assigned residents every shift you work. This affords you the opportunity to gently clean off the dresser top every so often, weekly if not more often. (Yes, this might be the housekeepers job, BUT, you know as well as I do that they will not do a thorough job out of fear of breaking things). To make your job easier, you might want to keep the contents of the drawers neat and orderly. Some families do this too. If this is the situation, follow their lead and keep it all the way THEY have it. Same with the closet.


Speaking of closets, we’ve all seen messy, coat hanger infested PITS known as the resident closet. The mess, like it or not, is almost always OUR fault. When we’re working short of staff we rush through cares and dive in and out of drawers and closets looking for the easiest outfits to dress our residents in…we don’t have time to go back and clean up after ourselves. A few days of this means totally out of control, awful chaos behind those doors. It’s always up to us to clean it up, to wade through the endless empty hangers and weed out the stuff that doesn’t fit. Or is in disrepair. Talk with the charge nurses, but most nursing homes box up clothing and items that no longer fit and call family to come pick it all up.

Resident Clothing
: More and more we see family taking care of these items. That’s fine and it’s often a big help. But we’ll always have those residents who have no one to do this. At some nursing homes the laundry staff put clothes away; in others, the aides do it. Either way, on a day where things aren’t so crazy, it would save a lot of time for you if you organized entire outfits: In the closets and drawers. An aide I know folds up an outfit into a neat semi ball and places many of them in a drawer: Pants, shirt, underclothing, stockings. So all she has to do is grab the ball, so to speak. This can be done with closeted outfits as well: Everything can be placed on a hanger.

ODORS: A big problem in many nursing homes. Even the cleanest rooms can have strong urine odors. Once there, it’s hard to get rid of. Carpeting is a big factor here…urine soaked rugs are almost impossible to totally clean up if the accident has been left to dry…as soon as an accident occurs try to get it cleaned up. Some aides spray the foam peri cleaners directly onto the wet spots to alleviate much of the smell. Another source of odors comes from laundry: If family does the resident’s personal laundry, wet clothing placed into hampers will smell, and the scent will get worse as it spreads to the other clothes… It’s best to bag up wet clothing and tie the bag tight in an effort to separate them from dirty but dry clothes. Some facilities don’t allow urine soaked clothing to be “kept” in hampers and insist the laundry department take care of these clothes.

One final note: Usually it is up to us to report things that need repair. We’re part of the safety chain…we often see problems before anyone else. Take this seriously. When stepping back to look at your residents units, have a critical eye and LOOK for hazards, potential hazards and other unsafe things.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

  • Check the outlets for overuse- sometimes family bring in extension cords and overload them.
  • Check the electric cords for fraying, loose connections
  • Bed: Work the siderails. Hard. Make sure they lock. Make sure they are sturdy and not loose. Check the mattresses. Headboards and foot boards. Check the side pads if resident uses them; make sure they’re usable and not ripped, torn or otherwise jeopardized of the intended purpose. (And do they need to be cleaned?)
  • Look up and down and all around. The privacy curtain: Make sure it’s all UP and parts of it are not down, loose, with missing links. A falling curtain can cause an ambulating resident to fall. Look at the walls for signs of leaks and other problems. Check to see if these things could use a good cleaning.
  • Window: Look at the locks. Test them. Screens? Holes in them? In warm months check outside for bee and hornet nests. Do the curtains work properly? Are they clean?
  • Lights: Are they working properly? Are the bright enough or is a bulb out?
  • Carpeting: Is it all tacked down tight? Any places where it’s coming up? Same with tiled flooring. And wood floors can be very hazardous if they dry out and cause slivering.
  • Area rugs- these are often a big risk for fall prone residents. Make sure the team is aware the resident has one of these rugs. The nurse might want to consider talking with the resident about the safety of this.

An area we tend to ignore is personal furnishings. Recliners and the like can be a real comforting thing for our residents. We want to make sure they are safe for use though: Ask your resident for permission first, then actually sit in it. Test it. See how it works and if it needs any repairs.