Gary Tetz

When I talk to long-term care people these days, I’m struck but not surprised by how many feel just plain tired and overwhelmed. And who wouldn’t be? 

The adrenaline of the initial pandemic has dissipated, but the daily battle continues, month after interminable month. Remember those blissfully ignorant days back in March when we braced ourselves for something that could last even until July? Of 2021, apparently … or beyond. 

For many I know, the challenges seem to be multiplying as their resilience wanes. Flu season is hammering on the door. Masked coworkers seem less kind to each other. An administrator friend had to tell a pregnant nurse she’d tested positive. A physical therapist who got COVID-19 in August lost his home to the Oregon wildfires in September. These accumulated ordeals, both personally and professionally, take an inevitable toll.

At this point, we dare not muse aloud about what else could possibly go wrong. It’s no longer about the second shoe dropping. We appear to be dealing with an evil centipede who still has at least 98 more. To state the bitter obvious, it’s exhausting.

At least we can be grateful that there isn’t a Supreme Court seat to fill or an election approaching. That would be really bad. 

At moments like this, I’m a strong proponent of turning to timeless classics for strength and courage, and what often pops into my head in times of weariness and crisis is the animated Disney movie Bambi

For those of you who weren’t raised on this traumatic tale, the title character is an adorable fawn who has already endured many hardships. After being badly injured while running from an unnamed hunter we’ll call Don Jr., he feels powerless to rise to his feet even with a deadly forest fire approaching. Just in time, a majestic stag appears and says the words that apply to every one of us today, and every day actually.

Get up Bambi. You must get up.”

As that heroic animated creature learned, sometimes resilience is the only choice — we get up simply because we have to. And in long-term care, the knowledge that our residents and coworkers are counting on us can be the critical piece of motivation. 

Remember that therapist I mentioned earlier? The Oregon wildfire destroyed his childhood home on a Wednesday, and after unsuccessfully begging his facility rehab director to let him come in the next day, he still returned to work on Friday. He’d already taken sick leave while battling COVID-19 the month before, and he simply couldn’t bear to abandon his patients again. “I didn’t want them to take steps back because of something I was going through in my personal life,” he told me.

Perhaps feeling his dedication, the patients he works with have returned the favor with incredible support, even as they navigate their own turbulent and challenging situations. “They’ve been through a lot, and they constantly remind me to keep pushing forward,” he said. “They care for me as much as I care for them, and that means a lot.”

For many of our residents, resilience is all they know. They’ve been through wars and experienced unimaginable personal tragedy, but somehow always found a way and a reason to stay positive and keep moving. 

Whatever happens next, when shoes three through 98 fall and we’re not always convinced we can muster the necessary strength, we can look to those in our care for wisdom and inspiration. Our residents and patients didn’t need a reminder from Bambi, they lived it. 

And like they did, and continue to do every day in our facilities, we’ll always get up because we must. There’s no other choice.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time 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 writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.