Making a big difference

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
About a decade ago, Monster.com unveiled a brilliant ad campaign. The spots were black and white vignettes in which children talked about their aspirations. But these kids were already jaded.

“I want to be paid less for doing the same job,”  says one.

“I want to be forced into early retirement” another utters.

I was reminded about this ad campaign while pondering why people choose to work in long-term care. Even on the best of days, this can be a pretty challenging field to carve out a living.

The hours can be ridiculous and unfair. The pay can leave a lot to be desired. Many times, you are dealing with customers who are upset, if not outright hostile.

And the general public perception toward this sector seems to be that at best, nursing homes are a necessary evil. And at worst, they should all be shut down.

Nor is long-term care what you'd call a media darling. Stories abound about underperforming facilities, unethical business owners, greedy corporate suits and caregivers who seem to neither give nor care.

Yet every day, hundreds of thousands of people put on their work clothes and show up on time.

If there is one piece of connecting fiber it's probably this: People in this field want to make a difference.

I'm sure some aspects of your typical workday can be unpleasant, perhaps degrading. But each year, long-term care pros manage and deliver care to upward of a million and a half people who cannot take care of themselves.

Many residents can no longer bathe or dress without assistance. In many communities, more than half the residents have Alzheimer's or some form of dementia.

Looking at the bigger picture, there are indications that 2012 will be a tough year for this sector. We are hearing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services talk about cutting payments while stepping up regulations. It's not going to be a picnic.

But at the end of the day, long-term care is a needed service. Sometimes against all odds, you are making life a little better for people who need your help. I cannot imagine a nobler calling. And I thank you.
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