Life on the Edges: A Day in the Life

As part of our theme for 2018, #StandInTheGap, we will be featuring a special series on our blog called 'Life on the Edges' which is the real story of Kandace and her daily experiences living, thriving, surviving and working to get her family out of poverty. Kandace will share her experiences twice a month for "Life on the Edges'. We hope that you'll follow this series and Kandace's story and learn more about poverty from a first hand account and that you will join us as we #StandInTheGap for people and families like Kandace's. For a little background on Kandace and an introduction to this series read our post 'Kandace with a K', and then learn how you can get involved with our #StandInTheGap project. 



There are far too many people in the world who think that those of us who live in poverty just sit at home all day doing nothing. I’ll have them know that a lot of time and effort goes into being poor for so many of us; myself included.

My day starts at 5am. I set my alarm clock early so I can hit the snooze button a few times before finally dragging myself out of bed and into the bathroom to get ready. Once I’m dressed, I get my three-year-old ready. Neither of us are morning people at that hour, so I’m often met with resistance and X pushing away and going back to sleep.

We make the 20-minute drive across town to the sitter’s house, where X will magically wake up to watch whatever cartoon is on the television and ignore me as I say bye. From there, I make the 30-minute drive to place where I work. Sometimes, if I have a few dollars, I’ll hit a drive-thru for breakfast along the way.

I hit the ground running the second I walk through the door at work. No two days are the same when you work in healthcare. On any given day, I take care of about a dozen people. That’s a good ratio for me. I’ve worked places where I had to take care of up to thirty. Regardless of the number of residents I have, being a CNA is a never-ending marathon.

I like to try to squeeze in a resident’s shower or two before breakfast, depending on which set of residents I have. Several factors come into play, including (but most certainly not limited to) how cooperative or combative they are. Then there’s going through and making sure everyone is dry and in a proper and comfortable position to eat; so that when trays come up, I can set them up and go. Once trays are passed and residents are fed, I like to go through and take dirty linens off the beds so they can be made.

After breakfast is the mad rush to get everyone toileted and to where they need to be. Some are late sleepers and are finally getting up. Some have doctor’s appointments. Others are going down to therapy or activities. Some just wander the halls, looking for a friend or a way to get out of the building. By the time I’ve tracked everyone down and made sure they have been toileted and have what they need, it’s time for them to eat lunch.

Once lunch is done, some of the residents go to lay down to rest and the others resume therapy, activities and the like. This is normally where I take my lunch break before finishing whatever showers and secondary task like weighing residents and making beds are still left to be done before going home. That is, unless I’m working a twelve-hour shift; then it’s just the halfway point of my day. The last half of a twelve-hour day toileting everyone, preparing them to eat dinner, dinnertime, toileting everyone and bedtime routines.

It’s not as much of a streamlined process as it would seem, because you never know what’s gonna happen at a nursing home. There is much more to it than the butt wiping jokes people like to make at our expense. Those twelve people are counting on me to help them live their best lives. So are each of my co-workers’ twelve residents and my co-workers and nurses themselves. It’s a team effort that comes with of lots of pain and exhaustion.

When the shift ends, I make the thirty-minute commute back to the babysitter’s house, pick up X and stop for gas before making the twenty minute drive home. On long days, this has us getting home after 8pm. Then I still must make dinner, bathe the toddler and get clothes together for the next day. We go to bed by 10pm so that we can wake up at 5am the next day and do it all over again.  

Seventeen hours of just about every day of mine is devoted to taking care of my family. That doesn’t even include the necessary tasks like housecleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and the other things that must wait until I have a day off.

The argument of someone in poverty “getting another job” or “getting a better paying job” is negated, in part, by the fact that there isn’t enough time. Where can another job fit in to someone’s schedule that is already at capacity? How is someone supposed to fit another job (or two) or going back to school in a schedule that barely affords them the time to sleep? Better yet, why is this the expectation in society. Poverty isn’t a system that is rooted in equality. The wages that someone deserves cannot and should not be based on their ability to perform. For one, this is ableist against those who cannot perform certain duties. Everyone deserves to be able to afford to live their life without worry of “Am I gonna be able to keep a roof over my head?” or “Are we going to have electricity and running water?”

Furthermore, no one should have to work themselves to death to live. My schedule allows for up to 52 hours of work (split between two jobs) That gives me two days off (weekends, mostly due to lack of childcare) to recover from working those 52 hours and spend quality time with my child. Even with 52 hours of wages, I still don’t make enough to get by. In a country where the “40-hour work week” is considered the norm, people like me still don’t earn enough to live on when they work more than this.

What more can one do when they’re already doing literally everything they can?