Gary Tetz

Though I strongly support the concept of gratefulness, I’m not much for delivering public speeches about it, even to close friends or family around the Thanksgiving table. Truth be told, I generally don’t enjoy revealing my innermost thoughts at any time, even to myself. But had I been forced to do so, I would have admitted feeling surprisingly thankful and even positive this year.

Those emotions might seem misplaced within long-term care, as the nightmare of COVID-19 still haunts our existence. Despite our most fervent hopes and dreams, the pandemic seems less and less like a plague of cicadas that will soon disappear into the ground for another 17 years, and more like an endemic infestation from which we’ll never have total safety or relief. 

But regardless of how tired and demoralized we are, or how bad the omicron variant or the next 20 that follow it could get, we can be grateful for one incontestable truth: We aren’t where we were. 

Remember March of 2020, when we were fighting an unprecedented monster we didn’t remotely understand? Now nearly two years later, we have monoclonal antibody treatments and antiviral pills. We’ve watched near-miraculous vaccines help prevent serious disease or death in those we care for. Infection control protocols and practices are now second nature in most facilities, testing and PPE are generally in adequate supply and our residents are much safer and far less isolated. 

Yes, we’ve been through hell in long-term care and the battle continues, but we’re also empowered by what we’ve survived, and have gained a better and broader perspective. Maybe we’re less hopeful for a defined end to the scourge, but we’re also more realistic, which can offer its own kind of relief. Our eyes have adjusted to the dark and we’re seeing more clearly what we’re dealing with, and what will continue to be required. 

Now, don’t start calling me a bald Pollyanna. I’m well aware of the difficulties ahead. Staffing, for instance. And then the problem of staffing. Also staffing, and the challenge of inadequate staffing. But again, we aren’t where we were — nowhere close — and that should offer continual encouragement, even when things still sometimes seem dire and hopeless.  

I wrote a piece here years ago where I referenced the story of William Shackleton, the unfortunate Arctic explorer who was stranded with his crew on an ice-covered island and achieved one of the most heroic rescues ever recorded. For months they lived in crude shelters, constantly wet and cold, eating little but seaweed and seal and pelican meat. “It is astonishing how we have grown accustomed to inconveniences, and tolerate, at least, habits which a little time back were regarded with repugnance,” Shackleton wrote in his account of the ordeal. “Still, we are all very cheerful.”

Whether you’re a long-term care leader or employee, from office to bedside, in any and every role in this profession, I’m incredibly grateful for you. You persevere against the odds, show relentless positivity and resilience, and do whatever is necessary for those you serve while waiting for rescue. You too have become accustomed to inconveniences and obstacles that would have been unimaginable before. 

Thankfully, we aren’t where we were, and building on the progress we’ve made, the tools we now have, and the collective wisdom and strength gained from constant crisis, we’ll eventually emerge better and stronger than we ever thought possible.

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 recent APEX 2020 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.