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Sound familiar? You work in long-term care? Let me tell you

June 21, 2011
by Patricia Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief
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Since joining the staff of Long-Term Living almost a year ago, I’ve learned a lot about others’ attitudes toward aging and, in particular, their attitudes toward long-term care. There’s something about being in this industry that brings out a lot of venting among total strangers—some positive, but more often super critical or simply heartbreaking.

Prior to this job I wrote about the hotel industry and people would often ask about my favorite places to stay or which hotels had the best deals or hottest clubs. The conversations were light and breezy and I was made to feel kind of cool and special—for a moment anyway. Now, when I tell people what I do the reaction is often much more visceral (and hence, I flinch a bit in anticipation of the coming response).

“Oh my God,” one will exclaim with widening eyes. “How can you write about nursing homes? Isn’t it depressing?”

Or, more commonly: “My [mother, grandmother, uncle] needs to go into assisted living but I don’t know where to begin or what to expect. Can you recommend a good facility? How do I talk them into considering long-term care? I’m terrified of broaching the subject!”

And, with indignation, “My sister was in a rehab facility and had her favorite sweater stolen. How do those workers get away with it?”

Family can be even worse. My 76-year-old mother, in particular, is keen on filling me in on every anecdote she’s heard or media report she’s come across. The other day it was motion detector systems. She’d just read a story about them in a national newspaper and called to express her distress over the Big Brother nature of it all. “I don’t want some sensor on my refrigerator alerting my family every time I neglect to open the door at a prescribed time!” Mom is fiercely independent and I think she sees my job as a harbinger of what’s to come for her. I simply cluck my tongue in sympathy and change the subject to something more neutral—like those wacky Kardashians or a relative’s insipid Facebook postings.

Whew. Can you relate? Maybe you, Mr. or Ms. Administrator, DON or Therapist, experience the same reactions at social gatherings or while traveling. (I’ve had some pretty intense conversations trapped in coach at 30,000 feet.) How do you deal with the feedback? Do you try to educate the protagonist? Engage in debate? Try to find some humor in the situation? Feel free to share—or vent!

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Comments

Patricia,

After being involved in long term care for over 30 years, I can definitely relate to your experience. For me, it's all about the opportunity to educate that protagonist. My entire career in long term care has been marked by the misconceptions and misinformation of acquaintances, friends and yes, even family. Our industry deals with a very emotional and a very intimidating issue-aging. We not only deal with the clinical issues that go along with that process but also the emotional issues as well. The vast majority of the professionals in our industry from the administrators and DON's to the nursing and resident assistants are hard working and ethical individuals doing a job that is challenging, taxing but so very needed. They deserve society's respect and thanks for a job well done.

The way I see it, I can do my part in helping to make that happen by taking opportunities to educate people that I run across that have incorrect ideas and viewpoints about long term care. For those of us in the industry, it's our collective responsibility.

Thanks Patricia for posting your perspective on this and thanks for allowing me to vent!

Patricia Sheehan

Patricia Sheehan

@longtermliving

Patricia Sheehan wrote for Long-Term Living when she was editor-in-chief. She left that...