Content provided by the Good Samaritan Society.
Grace Omwega walks purposefully down a wide hallway, listening for familiar voices or chiming alarms.
As a certified nursing assistant in Windom, Minnesota, it’s Grace’s job to help nursing home residents with anything they need — reaching a drink, stretching to put on socks or getting up to take a walk around the center. But as someone who deeply cares for the residents, Grace thinks of her work as more of a gift than a job.
“When I was hired here, I was thinking, ‘Oh, I can work one or two years and I can go somewhere else,'” says Grace, who came to the United States from Kenya seven years ago. “But now, I have finished five years, and I will finish more, too!”
A Caring Spirit
Jan Wassenaar lives in a senior living apartment, but he first met Grace when he was recovering in the nursing home from heart surgery. Today, he is visiting his wife of 62 years, Katharina, who is one of the residents Grace helps care for.
“Grace always asks my wife, ‘What’s wrong, can I help you?’ and always with an upbeat manner,” Jan says. “You see that very seldom nowadays. But you find someone like that, you feel better about life yourself.”
This humble, compassionate attitude is important for those working in long-term care, says Shelley Lovell, who works with Grace.
“Grace is easy going, she’s calm, she’s wonderful with the residents and she’s an excellent team player,” Shelley says. “If a resident’s light is on, she’s always ready to go help, and she explains if she is not able to stop and help right away.”
Grace smiles when she hears her friends Jan and Shelley speak highly of her, but to her, it’s just the right way to treat people.
“You know, if there is a resident, and you go to them and say, ‘Get up,’ even I won’t get up for that,” says Grace. “I want to be asked, ‘How are you?’ first. So like me, I have to make sure I’m cooperating with them, with everybody.”
From the Heart
Thinking back through her life, Grace says she can’t remember an incident or person who shaped her belief that it is important to keep on trying, to keep on smiling. “Trying is automatic,” she says. “It is good to get up and do some things. That makes the blood circulate, and then life becomes longer.”
People like Katharina and Jan have helped Grace feel at home in her work, but they’ve also given her a glimpse into her own future: a time of returned love. “Before, I didn’t know where I’m going. But now I understand,” she says. “They need my help, and I will need someone’s help, too.”