Born: Aug. 1, 1932
Betty Swift is a nurturer. She babysat the children of her nine brothers and sisters and she served as a nursing assistant for several years, caring for the elderly at an Alexandria nursing home.
Mrs. Swift, 81, said she has to feel useful and enjoys helping at Riverwalk Village, a senior health community operated by American Senior Communities, where she is receiving skilled nursing care. She helps set the table at meal time and she might help fold linen on some days.
“I do whatever they let me do. I enjoy taking care of the elderly people, keeping them happy and doing for them,” she said.
After graduating from Alexandria High School north of Anderson, Mrs. Swift got married and had two children. She later had a granddaughter and great granddaughter.
She found her passion when she landed a nursing assistant job at The Willows Nursing Home in Alexandria. During that time in the 1950s, no training was required to become a nursing assistant, she said.
“We got trained there,” said Mrs. Swift.
Her responsibilities consisted of doing whatever was needed, from bathing and feeding residents, to cleaning their rooms, to doing laundry to cleaning the facility, even cooking, she said.
Today, requirements are much different to work as an aide, she said. “I watch all these girls here and compare what they do to what I did when I was an aide and there’s a big difference,” she said.
“This is a nice, wonderful place. They all work together and get along together and they care for the people. They really care for them,” said Mrs. Swift, describing Riverwalk Village staff.
Mrs. Swift worked as an aide for more than 20 years. She has also been a patient at nursing homes.
“The first thing I notice is how the people are treated. They don’t ask to be in a nursing home. People have to remember. There’s going to be a day when you might have to be here. You do the best you can to show them they are loved,” she said.
“Here, they give you that feeling that you are wanted and loved.
“You treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Mrs. Swift said she never thought she would ever need nursing care. Many people think they’ll never need it, she said.
“I wanted to always be young, you know, keep that young feeling. We never know when we will have to have help.”
Mrs. Swift says she still has “that young feeling.”
“When I get old, I’ll be still. But right now, you’ll catch Betty moving around. They always thank me. Thank you means a lot.”
She said many think being a nursing assistant is easy work. “But I learned you’re on your legs, working all the time. I don’t care what anyone says, it is hard work,” she said.
“Giving love and care means a lot. I’m not an aide now, but I know what these are going through. I never thought I wanted to be a nurse aide, but I couldn’t ask for a better job.”