Tonight will be my last night shift. I have been working nights for three years doing palliative care for patients who choose to die at home. At first, this change shook me up. I love my job. It is by far the best job i have ever had. But I am tired. I am tired of working nights. That alone will lead most people to an early grave. I am mostly weary. Palliative care is emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Leaving my work at work has never been a problem. Many people ask me how I do it and I can honestly say it comes easily to me. We all have to die. The odds are 100/100. It is my job to make that the best experience possible or very least, the least shitty experience possible. I grieve with the people I care for and their family and friends. I don’t offer advice because there is none. All I do is listen and watch and do everything in my power to make those in my care feel comforted and comfortable.
But I am weary. Even though I can leave my work at work I am still tired. Caring for the dying is starting to weigh on me. Lately, after I leave a home I don’t feel that same feeling of making a difference. I just feel tired. Sometimes I feel angry. Most of the time I just want a break. It is time. I am no longer able to give 100% because I don’t have 100% to give.
And so, next week I go into the community to give baths and hand out medication. I will assist with meal prep. and helping those I care for get up and ready for the day. I will throw in the occasion load of laundry, do a few dishes and wipe counters. I will shave old men’s faces and brush old ladies hair. I will clean dentures and make beds. I will be a companion to break up long days spent alone and a friend to listen. I will observe and report to my nurse leaders any behaviour that is out of the ordinary that might tell of a urinary tract infection or a stroke. Mostly, I am allowing the people I care for the ability to stay in their own home until such a time as they can no longer or death claims them. I am working myself out of a job and with no doubt someone else will take their place. (The list is long. We are always desperate for workers and it is only going to get worse.) Each day I will see anywhere from 6 to 15 people. And maybe I will get the rest I need so I can one day return to my first love.