Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, I take a special moment for gratitude and to reflect on the many blessings of my life. I owe a lot of them to working in long-term care, and my LTC career is a blessing in itself.
1. I get the chance to learn from experience — other people’s experience. Talking to elders gives me insight about what leads to happiness and what doesn’t. I’d like to think this has spared me a few mistakes along the road.
2. LTC has improved my perspective. On days when I feel the weight of too many tasks to accomplish, I remember how lucky I am to be physically capable of taking care of my responsibilities. This allows me to focus on constructing a life I’ll be able to look back on with satisfaction when I’m 85 years old.
3. I’m told regularly how much I’m appreciated. Residents express their gratitude for my assistance in various ways. It could be a beaming smile at my approach, finding out from a family member that I’m talked about all the time, or a warm comment like, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” It’s a good reason to get to work every day.
4. Little things make people so happy. Cleaning off a pair of smudged eyeglasses or changing a clock battery can turn me into a hero. It’s really easy and feels really good.
5. I can work hours that suit my lifestyle. Long-term care is a 24/7 job. I’m grateful my shift is one that accommodates the rest of my life.
6. It’s a clinically rich environment. As a shrink, I could be in private practice seeing individuals 45 minutes each week. Instead, I get to meet the residents, their roommates, their families, and the staff members who affect their lives. I can observe how the team works, what’s going on in healthcare, and how society views elders in this country and worldwide. It doesn’t get more exciting than that.
7. I like representing psychology in a non-psychological world. Most of my coworkers are focused on the physical health of their charges. Some of them come from countries where psychologists and mental health care are foreign concepts. I enjoy demonstrating how psychologists contribute to the team and can make their jobs easier.
8. LTC is cutting edge. As the U.S. population ages and an increasing amount of funds go toward healthcare, there’s a greater focus on eldercare and how to provide cost-effective, clinically appropriate services. Our work affects the health of the nation.
9. No matter how old I get, I always feel young. My sister, by contrast, teaches high school and feels old.
10. I work with some of the best, most caring people around. Yes, you.
Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is a 2014 Award of Excellence winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is the Gold Medalist in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category of the 2014 American Society of Business Publication Editors Midwest Regional competition. A speaker and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care, she maintains her own award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com.