Where kindness is king

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

As pesky questions about the future of healthcare swirl, let's give thanks for the one, and maybe only, inviolate cog in the long-term care machinery that's beyond the power of politicians to regulate or obliterate — kindness. 

I realize that statement might drive folks to roll their eyes and seek synonyms for “trite,” and I'll happily plead guilty as charged. Because even if saying so seems corny, we work in a profession where kindness is still king. That should be a point of great pride and reassurance, now more than ever. 

For many of you who have devoted your careers to senior care, compassion is the nuclear fuel rod at your core that powers kindness in endlessly difficult circumstances. At a deeper level than even economic opportunity or societal need, the desire to simply be kind to the frail and vulnerable was probably the primordial reason this profession began.  

You would think a baseline of human caring should be a given — an unremarkable, All-American assumption like clean water and 99-cent cheeseburgers. But on a recent visit to a well-appointed assisted living community, I asked seniors what they value most, and their answers had little to do with the many amenities. Instead, all they wanted to talk about was how nice everyone was. 

“I couldn't believe it,” said one of a receptionist. “She remembered my name!”

“It's so wonderful to be noticed,” said another. “When you get to be my age, that doesn't happen much.” 

Though it's certainly not the first time I've heard residents gush about being well-treated, what always saddens and surprises me most is how surprised they are just to be seen, heard and valued. 

For too many seniors, an act of kindness has become a rare and unexpected gift. But what a privilege to work in a profession where we constantly represent the exception to their experience — offering the perfect antidote, just when it's needed most.