No matter how many nursing homes you work in, you will notice that there are always certain patients that are well known for one thing or another. It is really not much different than high school except that the “students” are elderly and you have to keep them happy to keep your job.
The Social Butterfly– This is the patient who goes to every single “event” in the home. They do bingo, arts and crafts, dances, carnivals and church every Sunday morning. She always looks her best (or tries too) and her clothes are never washed in the facility. (She has them sent out with family because the home will “mess them up”) She is sweet with a winning personality – until you do ask how high when she says jump. You must beware the social butterfly because she can take you down quicker than the prom queen back in high school. Everyone knows her and the administration will not stand for her to be upset. This is not because they adore her, but because they have already had problems with her complaints in the past and they do not want her children back in the office demanding to know why mom is not being treated like the princess that she is.
The Ladies Man– We all remember this guy from high school but never think we will meet him while working in a nursing home. This patient loves the attention of all the nurses and is not afraid to ask for it. (In fact, he assumes you want to spend your entire day with him!) When you are with him you no longer have a name; you are honey or sweetie pie or sugar. He will regale you with tales from his skirt chasing days and if you are not careful, grab a handful of your skirt as well! You can get angry with him but he simply withdraws, claiming that he really meant to touch your arm or pat your knee and all of a sudden he is confused and not up to talking anymore. He is generally harmless but trouble can ensue if this Casanova messes with the wrong nurse!
Miss Total Care of the Year– This is the patient that every CNA will fight over. (The equivalent to Miss Popularity back in high school) He or she is total care and for the most part, cannot even move a muscle. Why do they all love her? Because she is cute! She is easy to take care of and she has family who comes in everyday to sit with her and praise the staff. They bring the nurses cookies and candy and even give them money at Christmas time! If the family falls in love with you, you are golden! They will request that you are their loved ones CNA for every shift that you work and you will then be part of the élite class of nurses. There are definite perks here!
The Grouch– This is the patient, who constantly sulks, complains about everything and thinks all the nurses are out to get him. (And not in the good way like with the Ladies Man!) If he gets lime jello on his lunch tray he complains that his favorite is cherry. If you make sure to bring him cherry the next day (out of the kindness of your heart because you know it is his “favorite”) he will gripe that he would rather have lime. You can never be gentle enough while caring for him and he will be quite vocal in letting you know how rough you are being. (Of course you are actually being just right!) He may actually like you but if you find out that he does, do not let it show. He will not admit that he likes anyone and if you challenge his Oscar the Grouch approach to life things will only get worse for you.
There are many more personality types out there but these seem to be the most dominant I have encountered in my years working at nursing homes. Keep this in mind when you enter a new facility and you will surely be able to pick out which patient is which!
This article is part of a series of articles that talk about how work is when you’re a certified nursing assistant. The article above and the thoughts expressed therein are those of the author, Tanya Glover who is a practicing CNA.