Gary Tetz


Call it a blessing or a curse, but at this point everything I do or see ties somehow back into long-term care. Give me a life experience, and I’ll connect it to this profession in 300 words, or your money back.

This affliction means I can’t even enjoy football on a Sunday anymore without suffering a moment of unsolicited nursing home-related insight. Even la-la-la-la fingers in my ears don’t help. It just happens. 

Recently, I got invited to the home of a friend, a devout Oakland Raiders fan, to fritter away a Sunday watching large men pummel each other for fun and profit. In my naivete I expected to be viewing an actual game, but it turns out that wasn’t entirely correct.  

Instead, he’d dialed up a TV channel called NFL Red Zone, which each week offers seven hours of continuous coverage of all the games in progress. To make this possible, the broadcast jumps wildly from game to game, focusing primarily on teams threatening to score. If scoring drives happen to be occurring simultaneously, there could be two boxes on-screen, or four, or even eight. 

The draw of this approach is that no longer does one have to suffer through the slog of a real game. Forget the concept of enjoying the shifts in momentum, or investing in the heroic, roller-coaster struggle of one team conquering another over three long hours. Red Zone skips all that, just showing the exciting parts. For a multi-tasking, short attention span culture, it’s pretty much perfect.

Those who work in long-term care, of course, live the daily professional antithesis of Red Zone. Your career choice represents an embrace of the whole journey, with all its ups and downs, not just the highlights. You’re invested in life, which includes meandering quiet passages along with times of triumph and crisis. You don’t get to fast forward or chop out the boring stuff. You’re all in for the entire game. 

Take the therapy gym, for instance — not exactly a Red Zone sort of place. For many patients, it’s the long road of pain and effort that makes possible the sudden moments of exhilarating accomplishment, and from the therapists I’ve talked to, that’s a huge part of their reward. If all they had to do was swoop in last-minute and enjoy the successes, they wouldn’t have the satisfaction of knowing what had to be overcome to achieve them. Being part of the unabridged experience is a drawing card, not a burden. 

In this fragmented, appearance-obsessed world, where social media posts are all triumphs and gloss with little reality, your decision to work in long-term care models a completely different view on life — the way it actually is. If you’d wanted a Red Zone career of sugar-rush highlights, you’d be an astronaut or Instagram influencer. But thank goodness you chose to embrace the entire human journey, and have no desire to change the channel. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.