CNA meeting the needs of the elderly

Helping the elderly maintain healthy hygiene on the outside and the inside is just some of the things that Mary Grace Castellanos does at Platte County Legacy Home. Seen here, she is attending to the needs of patient Ernie Baker. She has worked as a CNA for six years at the Wheatland location.

WHEATLAND – Nursing Care for the elderly is a calling and to do it, you have to have a passion… and compassion.

Mary Grace Castellanos grew up in the Philippines, but now, here in America, she has a family and a career as a certified nursing assistant at Platte County Legacy Home. She has been in that position for six years in a profession that is in dire need of more health care workers and has been in the country for 15 years.

Coming to Wheatland so her husband could work at the power plant alongside his father, Mary Grace didn’t really know what to do as far as a career goes, so she applied for a position as a dietician while Legacy Home was still in the old building.

After looking at her resume, the hiring manager saw something special in Castellanos and suggested that she take classes and become a CNA. She followed the suggestion and went through the open doors and today is one of the favorite CNAs at Legacy Home.

The opportunity fit well into Castellano’s future plans since she has aspirations of becoming an RN and is taking classes to one day make that dream come true.

CNAs are the ones who assist the nurses and can pretty much do many different things to meet the needs of their patients. It is specialized health care that ministers to both the body and the spirit of the residents.

“We do a lot as CNAs,” Castellanos said. “It depends upon the resident, but most of the time we have to make sure that their dignity is maintained, they are presentable, help them how to get dressed, get up, have them bathed, fed and how to have good hygiene.”

Although some of the residents can still function on their own and need little help in the basics, but nursing in this arena prepares you to help those who can’t help themselves also while also trying to keep them from forgetting the skills that they still can do.

“If they can still walk, and eat and brush their hair, then we have to be there to monitor and assist,” Castellanos said. “We also have to know how to take blood pressures, vitals and so many other things. It’s not really that easy, but if you have the passion to help out and really learn about it, it’s not that hard.”

A CNA has a certain job description that must stay within the guidelines of the certification, she said. For instance, they cannot treat a wound, but they can alert people who can. One of the things that a CNA is invaluable for is to make the residents feel safe and loved.

“This is their home, and we make sure that they are not sad or bored,” she said. “They become like your grandma or grandpa. We work not only on their physical hygiene, but also their mental hygiene.”

Dealing with the elderly, especially during the last year when COVID caused a shutdown and complete quarantine, CNAs were right there on the front lines, and they had rigid restrictions.

“It was just sad during the pandemic,” she said. “They were locked down in their rooms. I would keep trying to be positive and reassure them that everything would be fine and then maybe sit down and watch a little TV with them. Just to make them feel like they were not alone.”

All caregivers during the lockdown at Legacy home had to transition to a type of hazmat suit with full mask and shield. From room to room, they had to dress down, and could not use the same suit to go into multiple rooms. Each resident had to have a CNA with a fresh suit of protection.

It’s also difficult for these angels of mercy to stay positive when perhaps there are a lot of pressures outside the workplace.

“Some days it’s hard, but we remember that it’s our job,” she said. “I have kids, I have a husband, a house, I have school. On some days you just have to prioritize and separate. You have to keep things separate, what’s going on at home and what’s going on in here. You may be having a bad day, but these precious people need to be taken care of.”