A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Dementia Ward — Memoir of a Male CNA is one FUNNY book!
Remarkable insights of skilled nursing care from an insider!
First-time author and married father of four, Charles Schoenfeld, retired in 2003 as a UPS truck driver then took coursework to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). He passed the exam and began working at a dementia care facility where he says, “I fit right in.”
How did he end up at the North Central Health Care facility in Wisconsin?
During one of Chuck’s last visits to his mother’s apartment he slipped and fell on the kitchen floor she had just “washed” with Crisco Oil. Chuck and his wife, Maggie, persuaded her to move in with them. During the Wisconsin winters, his mother lived with her daughter, Jean, in warmer Texas. When their mother’s health declined further, they moved her into a dementia unit a block away from the Schoenfeld home.
As often happens when visiting a family member in a nursing home, Chuck also spent time with other residents. What makes him unique though, is this military veteran and UPS driver was so moved that he changed careers at age 56 to become a CNA.
A journey of tender-hearted adventures with residents in a Wisconsin nursing home.
For the next six-plus years, Schoenfeld made the hard work fun. He described one day as a collage of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Mission Impossible, and Rocky. He learned to redirect Mabel when her piercing screams for the police made him hope they would arrive after she used her walker as a weapon.
Schoenfeld writes humbly, honestly, and vividly, admitting “one of the greatest obstacles [he] had to overcome [were his] own insecurities.” For one, he could never quite get through helping residents with their “personal cares,” such as toileting. However, he was called upon to do the other hard work like calming combative residents. He writes about nursing assistants who work hard and long hours, often working overtime to make ends meet. He adds that they duck, dodge, sometimes take direct hits, and still continue working—a testament to how much they care.
The residents “opened my heart and jumped in.”
— Charles Schoenfeld
Some of the residents he writes about:
- Little Lila in her late nineties had no visitors but was “lovingly feisty.”
- Silly antics with former school teacher Frieda who knew better despite Chuck’s request for her to copy a sentence he had written, “I leave my entire estate to Chuck.”
- Helping depressed Susan agree to take her pills only after he took time to gain her trust and become her friend.
He always took the high road when dealing with the residents—even feeling defensive while in public, when for example, during a doctor’s appointment, people stared. He notes, If you do “your best to keep people safe and offer them friendship, you’ve given them all you can, which is really all they are asking for.”
A must read for families struggling to move a loved one into a nursing home.
Yet, he adds, “My nature is to look for the light side of a worst-possible situation.”
During the author’s nearly seven years of service, you’ll read about the “Secret Club,” CNA drama, compassionate moments, and even deer hunting.
This book is a testament to the Schoenfeld’s nature and a tribute to the residents whose lives he made better with compassion and fun antics.
Inspiring reading for nursing home management and staff.