Gary Tetz

“A lot of people are afraid of heights,” says comedian Steven Wright. “Not me, I’m afraid of widths.”

After years of hiking, I’ve had a similar but opposite experience. It’s not the width of a trail that causes me trouble, it’s the length.

On a recent weekend, the hike I chose to tackle was one of the hardest I’ve ever attempted in distance and elevation gain, and I was determined to finish it at all costs. But as my strength ebbed, I asked a passing hiker coming down from the top how much farther it was, and whether going all the way was worth it.

“Absolutely, it’s gorgeous up there,” he said, as his eyes betrayed deep concern for my survival.
“But like they say, getting to the top is optional, but getting down is mandatory.”

I didn’t realize at the time that he was quoting renowned mountain climber Ed Viesturs, the only American who has conquered all 14 mountains above 26,247 feet.

It was good and timely advice. I wanted so badly to keep going, to devote everything I had to my mission that day, and I felt like a complete failure when I turned around. But at least I lived to hike another day.

Long-term care is an endlessly self-sacrificial profession, and we all know facility staff whose compassion isn’t passive or abstract — they actively care for residents and co-workers. Whatever is necessary, they do, at any hour and expense, regardless of the toll it takes on themselves.

On even the most hectic days, they get their work done and still keep on caring.

Maybe you’re one of those folks, and since you chose this mission-driven line of work, there’s a good chance you are. If so, the supply of emotional energy you bring is astounding, and I’m not remotely suggesting you limit your caring.

But when I see you in action, I sometimes wonder, like my fellow hiker did, whether you’ve left enough in reserve.
If that’s you, I hope your love extends to yourself, as well as others, because this profession needs people like you for the long haul.

Every day, you’re climbing mountains for your residents and colleagues, fueled by your selflessness. Just make sure you save enough of yourselves for the trip home.

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.