At this festive time of year, it’s all-too-easy to be charmed and delighted by visions of reindeer leaping from rooftops and scampering across the sky. But before we let such images cloud our judgment, let’s remember that back in the real world of long-term care, not everything is all gingerbread and sugar plums when it comes to these wild and dangerous forest creatures.

Imagine, for example, the surprise felt recently by the residents of a nursing home in Illinois when, in the middle of a peaceful fall morning, a deer suddenly crashed through a facility window. Understandably, panic ensued, as the renegade beast “brushed against two people and knocked down a nurse,” according to police, before escaping the way he or she came. 

Admittedly, to be merely brushed against, or even thrown to the ground without apparent injury, doesn’t sound like the worst possible outcome. And given what happened to Bambi, we might do well to forgive whatever well-deserved aggression toward humans the nation’s deer continue to carry. But still, I suspect this possibility was never acknowledged on facility tours, and a Waiver of Facility Responsibility for Unprovoked Deer Attacks should definitely be included in future admission paperwork. 

Now that I think about it, this distressing story also stirs up traumatic memories of a squirrel attack on a Florida senior living campus I wrote about a few years back, a tale which haunts me still. I’m also reminded of the day I shared that houseflies are carrying drug-resident bacteria into long-term care facilities, and informed grateful readers of the unfortunate woman in Taiwan who had to have four live bees removed from her eye.   

But disturbing as these events might be, I’m suggesting we choose to remember that with their actions, the animals and insects of America are actually embodying the real spirit of the holiday season. They’re offering us something truly priceless: the gift of perspective. 

Instead of trying to forget the terrors they’ve inflicted, or could, let’s keep the horrific happenings I’ve described fresh in our minds, for easy recall whenever times get tough. Census low? At least a resident wasn’t mauled by a rabid squirrel. Financials frightening? Better than a cloud of houseflies strafing the activity room with payloads of lethal organisms. Survey team at the door? Stick some bees in your eye and tell me which you prefer. 

The ongoing battle between long-term care and the animal kingdom is like all unwelcome life events — the path to healing is through a change of mindset, from threats to gifts. I just wish those horrible creatures would wrap them a little nicer.

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, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the APEX Awards. 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.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.