Dr. Eleanor Barbera

From the 102-year-old Hulk Hogan fan to the doting, selfless caregivers doing behind-the-scenes work, there are numerous people in long-term care who inspired me this year.

Take, for example:

•  The 102-year-old man, still remarkably handsome, whose favorite sport is professional wrestling and who recalls fondly the days of Hulk Hogan.

•  The personal companion I encountered dusting the framed family photos on the windowsill while the blind woman she cared for was taking a nap.

•  The new assistant administrator who stopped me in the hallway to introduce himself and who seemed genuinely interested in my response.

•  The nurses who immediately come up with a solution to a resident’s problem and then follow through with it. (“If he wants to be down at rehab early, we’ll have the night shift get him up before they leave.”) Hallelujah!

•  The housekeeper dedicated to controlling infection even though it’s been a tough year for her personally.

•  The legally blind 90-year-old woman who avidly follows the news and the music scene and has a strong opinion on everything. That Gaga is great, she says. The president is not.

•  The maintenance, housekeeping and laundry workers who genially reset clocks, repair radiators, insert batteries, translate languages, return lost clothing and mop up embarrassing messes as a matter of course.

•  The nurses who somehow maintain their poise, professionalism and good sense while telephones are ringing, beepers are beeping and people are lined up three-deep at the nursing station waiting to talk to them.

•  The middle-aged man who maintains his marriage, his religious studies, his family relationships, his hygiene and his career interests while living with an advanced neurological disorder, yet doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

•  The aides who proudly care for residents who are irritable or forgetful or barely aware of their presence.

•  The family members who visit weekly and often daily, bearing home-cooked food, takeout, favorite lotions, grandchildren and socks, even when their loved one is irritable or forgetful or barely aware of their presence.

•  The social workers who talk to family members and help them through difficult financial decisions and end-of-life planning.

•  The clerks who make clinic appointment after clinic appointment and avert problems before they happen so that you don’t even know how much aggravation they’re saving you.

•  The security guards/receptionists who offer a calm, friendly, stable presence in the midst of turmoil behind the scenes.

•  The McKnight’s Long-Term Care News staff for the opportunity to write about psychology in long-term care for another year.

On a separate note, there are many families visiting loved ones around the holidays who might benefit from a virtual conference for caregivers. Topics range from battling caregiver fatigue to paying for long-term care, with experts including Nora Super, Teepa Snow and me (on bullying in senior living). Here’s a link to get more info: Caregiver Smile Summit.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an 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 American Society of Business Publication Editors Midwest Regional competition. A speaker and consultant with over 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care, she maintains her own award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com.