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Proud to have said “Yes!”

By Louisette Trahan, a support aide part of the Red Cross humanitarian force deployed to long-term care homes
 
I’d never set foot in a long-term care home before.

I knew that the Red Cross was a humanitarian organization.

Louisette Trahan, a support aide part of the Red Cross humanitarian force deployed to long-term care homes2020, COVID-19, CHSLD, dignity and vulnerability were all words that were rattling around my brain, leaving me feeling indignant and powerless. Then the Red Cross started recruiting volunteers to work in long-term care homes. I answered that call with a “Yes!”. Yes, because I wanted to make a difference for long-term care home residents and staff. It was as a support aide that I first dipped my toes into being a Red Cross employee.

It all started with two days of training on our role in a long-term care home. I was already starting to develop a sense of belonging within the organization. I saw the faces of all the volunteers coming together to make a difference. I was full of enthusiasm. Then deployment day arrived.

All my senses are on alert. I’m seeing the residents, hearing them, approaching them, breathing the same air as them, and then brushing up against them during the first mealtime tasks. I quickly realize that while these people share a living space, a unique path has brought each of them here. I keep in mind that each and every one has led a full and meaningful life. Respect.

I’m not the first one to suddenly come into their home like this. I won’t be the last. We size each other up. They definitely have more experience than me.

I set about my work with renewed energy. Every gesture is meaningful. Getting the residents ready for a meal, with aprons and hand sanitizer. Engaging with them over a meal that is bursting with Quebec-grown ingredients, putting on a confident smile. Disposing of bags of soiled linen and garbage.

Then, after a few shifts, having started to feel at home, I started experiencing small victories. I was getting a woman ready to take a meal in her room, talking to her about this and that. She said nothing, but I was certain that she was present with me. I’m yakking away. Blah, blah, blah, sunshine, rain, blah, blah. An orderly pokes her head in the door to make sure everything is going okay, and then leaves again.

“What did she want?” the woman exclaimed.
Stunned, I said, “You can talk!”
“Of course I can talk!” she replied.

I was moved. We struck up our first conversation. I will cherish each of them on a “good day”, as I like to say.

There were other little victories, too. I humbly believe that I made a difference, as did my Red Cross teammates. The smiles, shared worries and thanks from the residents and staff are my greatest satisfaction.

Lastly, I have to mention the exceptional support that we received from the Red Cross throughout this short mission. I consider myself fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful teammates.

I’m proud to have said “Yes”.


 
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