Caring Has Many Faces

John Iver - Durham, North Carolina
Entered on July 6, 2008

I came from a country where it is strongly unacceptable to not take care of one’s elderly family member. My culture dictates that whatever I do to an elderly individual, the same thing will be done unto me in my elderly years; thus, the non-existence of nursing homes in my country. When I came to America to work as a nurse, I have seen how extremely different the approach is of the American people towards the aging population.

I remember doing treatment on one of the demented residents in the facility where I am working when I began to emotionally wrestle with myself: How can people just dump their parents in a nursing home? Don’t people care? During those times, I hated the sense of individualism that perpetuates in America. I felt desperately to go back to my country and promise my parents that I will never put them in a “nursing home” or abandon them in the future.

However, in the course of understanding the essence of caring, which is the very nature of my profession I have come to realize that caring is valued here in America just as in my country. Family members who send their parents to nursing homes do so because they care. Despite their personal endeavors, they exert effort to visit their parents (or aunts, or uncles) more often than not, to make sure that they get the care they deserve. I would see them embrace their parents, spend an hour or two with them, cherish memories with them, and cry or laugh with them. For private pay residents, they have children who work hard so their nursing home bills are paid so they get the quality care that they need. Nursing homes were built as an avenue of care.

When I have observed this sociological exercise, I realized that I am working in America so I could send money to my parents in their “nursing home” – in our home where they have themselves to look after while I am away somewhere taking care of other people.

Since then, I have become more compassionate and caring towards my residents whom I have considered my very own parents here in America. I would interact with their family members as if they were my own, and this has made me more layered with empathy. Treating them in the best way I can is my personal expression of gratitude to my biological parents for bringing me into this world to be an instrument of universal care.

Therefore, this I believe: No matter what culture you grew up with, caring is one expression with many faces. Just writing this essay is a loud declaration that I care for people to know what caring is all about.