John O’Connor

Many things make long-term care unique. For one, you’d be hard pressed to find a sector where angels and devils intermingle so regularly.

The angels in our midst are easy to spot, as their effervescence and glow gives them away. As for what unites them? That’s easy: they are all givers.

In “The Second Mountain,” Author David Brooks writes about those who have moved on from a life of self-centeredness to one of commitment. His words might also be used to describe long-term care’s angels:

“They know why they were put on this earth and derive a deep satisfaction from doing what they have been called to do. Life isn’t easy for these people. They’ve taken on the burdens of others. But they have a serenity about them, a settled resolve.”

Perhaps you have a few of these folks in your community. Maybe you are one yourself. If so, congratulations.

But if we are going to recognize the givers, we shouldn’t ignore those with the gift of the grab. They range from the indifferent workers who see a job in this field as little more than a transactional relationship — to those with a breathtaking capacity for hubris, greed and even larceny.

The members of this second group are not so difficult to spot, either. They may appear to be happy on the surface, but their joylessness and behavior exposes them soon enough.

I don’t know what it is about the long-term care field that attracts people with such diametrically opposed personalities. But there’s no denying that the givers and takers are well represented.

I’m sure those in each group have reasons for their outlook and behavior. And it’s hardly my job to judge. But it’s pretty clear which type tends to feel better at the end of the day. Or, for that matter, at the end of their days.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.