Skip to main content

In Alaska, a nurse’s aide eases elders’ paths

Photo Credit: Getty Images
In Alaska, a nurse’s aide eases elders’ paths
By Pete Levine ·
In Alaska, a nurse’s aide eases elders’ paths
Crystal Basnaw. Member-provided photo.

“Getting older is not easy,” says Crystal Basnaw, a certified nursing assistant at Fairbanks Pioneer Home, a state-run senior living facility in Alaska. “I feel like my job is to bring all the joy and comfort that I can.”

For the past 14 years, Basnaw, a member of ASEA/AFSCME Local 52, has not only brought joy to the lives of the “elders,” as they’re called at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home, but she’s been a devoted co-worker.

“She’s limitlessly kind with [the elders],” says David Leslie, a former assisted living aide at the Pioneer Home who worked with Basnaw. “She works tirelessly, even when we are understaffed, and always offers guidance and listens to anyone who needs someone to talk to.”

Leslie explains that he came to the job at the Pioneer Home without any medical experience, but that Basnaw was a crucial lifeline for him early on.

“Crystal was not just kind,” said Leslie, “but ready to help out with any difficulties I faced: finding supplies, assisting residents, or just being someone to talk to, either about our job or anything affecting our community.”

Basnaw chalks that up to remembering the feeling of being new on the job herself. She had been a stay-at-home mom before returning to the workforce, and she was nervous at the thought of the up-close-and-personal interactions she knew would come with the job.

“I was super shy. I’m still shy,” says Basnaw, “I cried the first week I went to work. Just to get the jitters out. So, I want to take people under my wing and say, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’ I make them feel comfortable. I always have an ear for someone.”

But there’s more to Basnaw’s gifts than that. She’s driven to bring dignity and fulfillment to the lives of the 90-some residents who live at the Pioneer Home.

“My job is to help people who aren’t able to do it for themselves,” says Basnaw.

That might involve writing letters for the elders who are no longer able to. Or making phone calls on their behalf. That comes on top of her day-to-day duties, which include helping residents — who range in age from 65 to 104 — eat, bathe, get dressed, take their medicine, and take part in the homes’ activities.

While Basnaw may see these attributes as “just part of the job,” Leslie says that Basnaw brings much more to the table.

“There were times where I was panicking and didn't know what to do, but Crystal was just a walkie-talkie call away,” Leslie recalls. “She'd come in with smile on her face, and her experience and attitude always showed through.”

One tried and true ice breaker that Basnaw has picked up through the years to is ask residents how they ended up in Alaska.

The answer: “Usually work … or a man,” jokes Basnaw.

She may be modest about the outsize role at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home, but David Leslie is anything but muted in his praise of his former co-worker: “The State of Alaska and our elders should be so proud to have someone who puts so much love and pride into her work.”

Related Posts