by James Coburn – staff writer
Caren Graham’s empathy, focus, and attention skills are ripe as the facility trainer at Golden Age Nursing Facility in Guthrie.
She wanted to be a nurse ever since she can remember. Graham was a certified nurse aid for a long time before making her professional transition.
She trains the CNA’s by enrolling them in an 80-hour course before they are certified by the state of Oklahoma. She also has some administrative duties on the halls.
Graham has been a licensed practical nurse since 2003 when earning her license at Metro Technology Center in Oklahoma City. Metro Tech was a great experience for her.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my school years,” she said.
Although she has worked at Golden Age on-and-off since 2000, she has worked at Golden Age steadily for five years. What keeps her there? Management follows best practices in nursing care.
Professionalism means she never had to worry about her license. Golden Age treats the residents with the upmost dignity and respect, she said. Graham wants to always be a part of that.
She enjoys mentoring other nurses who are new to the profession. She offers encouragement by being a positive presence in life.
She has tried other things in her work life, but Golden Age is where she always returns, Graham explained. Graham has made life-long friends with the staff and the residents.
“I’m probably grieving today because we have lost one that really touched my heart,” Graham said. “We do this a lot. You get really close to them, you bond with them and then they go on home. And, it’s hard on the staff but we get over it and go about our business and help others. I am so blessed to be part of that, but I had made a friend in her and the memories of her will last me a lifetime. That’s priceless.”
Golden experiences are shared in the residents’ stories in which memories sometimes span 90 years or more.
“They have such wisdom. And when they impart that to us it’s just priceless,” Graham said. “I’ve heard this over and over. When they get close to you — when you become family — that’s when they tell you these things. They want you to know the accumulation of their life and what was important.”
Graham has heard stories about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in which more than 300 innocent Blacks were killed in Greenwood.
“Some of the things are repeating. So, I learn some things from these people,” she said. “I had one guy — this was another time — how he fought for his co-workers to get breaks. They were around when all of these civil liberties were coming along and kind of getting hashed out.”
The elders were a hard-working generation. It’s hard for many of them to be idle. The COVID-19 pandemic brought additional stress.
“We just held each other up,” Graham said. It was incredibly hard. And I’m not saying it’s over. I’m saying, man what a year of stress and hard work. It was the hardest year of my entire career.”
However, management stood by their staff and residents, she said.
“We stood with them,” she reflected on the administrator and director of nurses, and the ownership.
“When we were down, they were picking us up,” she said.
Today, Graham is grateful that family members are starting to enter the facility. Faces of the residents are lighting up, she said. “They are talking with a little more pep. You can just tell the difference,” she said.