The 23-year-old activity assistant said the favorite part of her job is being able to extend love to the residents who flourish when given personal attention and appreciation.
“It’s hard not to get attached when you see them more than you see your own family sometimes,” she said. “It’s wonderful to hear their stories — even though sometimes they are fictitious. They are usually pretty honest with how they feel about things, and I actually enjoy that.”
Cummings, who has been with the center going on two years and an activity assistant since September 2012, said working at Bradley Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is a nice fit for her personality because she enjoys caring for people in general.
“I, however, really never knew I would enjoy working at a nursing home as much as I do,” she admits. “You never know what you’re going to walk into that day, or what kind of mood your residents will be in. It just always keeps you on your toes! You’ve got the ones that know you by name and you’ve got the ones that know you by your face, but call you by a different name sometimes, and still say ‘I love you.’”
With a heart for helping others, Cummings, a Cleveland High School graduate, has already made an impression on several residents with old-fashioned good manners that seniors, in particular, are accustomed to and find refreshing.
“The times that have meant a lot to me is getting to hug and love on those residents,” she said. “The ones that have said to me, ‘I’m so glad you’re here and you listen to me.’ The ones that say, ‘You really do love me and care about me.’ The time where I had a resident ask me to pray for them because they were anxious — the times where I would go into one of my resident’s room to say goodnight to her before I left from second shift, and I would ask her if she needed anything — and the one night where she said she wanted me to pray with her. She prayed for me, told me to pray for her, and then we said the Lords Prayer and that’s how it was every night if she was awake, until I went to day shift. Those are the times that keep me going when I feel like I can’t that day.”
For her position as activity assistant, Cummings said there wasn’t much training needed for her position. She started at the center as a unit secretary on second shift. About a year later she was transferred into the activity department under Janice Allen, activities director.
Cummings described a typical day at the office by explaining, “I say good morning to all my residents, even the ones from Wing Three that got dispersed into the rest of the facility due to the new Rehab Unit being under progress. We usually have exercising first thing, and then do a word game or devotions if we don’t have a special morning event. I then take lunch at noon, and then work on daily and weekly charting. Then I set up for the afternoon activity. I clock out at 4 p.m., head home to change and turn right back around, and head to Cracker Barrel at 5 p.m. and work until about 9 or 10:30 p.m., unless it’s Friday. Then it could be until after 11 p.m.
“People wonder why I have two jobs, and yes, I need the extra income, but in all honestly, I enjoy what I do at both places. I enjoy working at Cracker Barrel because I get to serve others, and hopefully make their day a bit better! I believe in hard work. That’s how I was raised and I will continue to show that, no matter what my tasks are.”
On weekends Cummings has been known to drop by the center just to say hello and visit with the residents because of her genuine interest in them. Although she’s never married and has no children, she said marriage is one of her goals in life. She added, however, that there is someone she considers very special in her life.
With so much love to give, Cummings said her desire is “for more caring people to enter this field,” adding, 'Even if it’s just volunteering first and getting your feet wet — so to speak. Yes, sometimes certain circumstances really tug at your heartstrings and you end up getting teary eyed, but it’s so worth it. It does take special people to work at a nursing home, and nursing in general. You have to be able to have patience and strength, but the most important thing is to have a heart.”
Allen said, “We’re trying to hire quality individuals that have a heart for the residents, who care deeply about them and are willing to go the extra mile to make their quality of life a good one every day that they are here. We appreciate having them placed in our care. Haylei is a caring individual — a caring employee — who loves the residents and will do anything she’s asked to do. Bradley Healthcare is always looking for individuals who are caring and have a heart for residents in this type of setting.”
Cummings said, “My life verse is Hebrews 11:1 which states ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ Everything that I have, own and cherish are all results of having that Hebrews 11:1 faith! No, it’s not always easy, and yes, there has been times where I just thought the load was too much, but the Lord never gives you more than you can handle.”
For now, Cummings said she is handling the challenges of life just fine as she keep her eyes open for further opportunities to acquire new skills to complement her people skills and achieve new goals — goals that allow her to use her heart, as well as her soul.