Ever notice when you tell people that you work in senior living they often have no idea what you mean? Sometimes I'll say I am an administrator, and other times I'll just tell people I work in a senior community- it often depends upon the level of interest they seem to exhibit during the conversation. But regardless of how I frame it, most people have little idea what really happens inside the walls of a community.
All in a Day's Work
They don't realize that in the space of one day there are families to reassure, residents to care for, regulations to follow, staff to manage, reports to compete, sales plans to uphold, and the ever-important dining program to oversee.
That is just one day.
This doesn't even include any staffing issues, challenging regulatory problems, budget adjusting, physical plant woes, or a host of other things that often pop up during the course of a "normal" day. It also doesn't account for the 3 am texts when a resident has an emergency or a water main breaks and you have to notify more than 150 people that they'll be without water for the better part of a day.
The Priceless Moments
They also don't know the absolute sweetness of sitting with a nonverbal, late-stage dementia resident and being party to one of those brief windows of lucidity when they talk with you; not just yes or no, but really engage. It breaks your heart and makes it overflow with joy all at the same time. Or being able to see families years after their loved one has passed on and having them tell you how thankful they are for your love for their parent. Or sitting with a dying resident; being there as they leave this life and slip into eternity.
More Than Just a Job
They also don't know that each resident we serve is much more than just part of our job. We take our work home, think about it when we aren't there, worry and pray for their well-being, and find ourselves never really disconnecting from our vocation, even on days off.
Sharing Our Passion
It's pretty tough to collapse all of that into a simple answer. It's also pretty tough to have a meaningful conversation about what we do to with those we aren't acquainted with this industry. But to all of you fellow laborers out there who don't sleep at night, count your residents as your extended family, and cannot imagine doing something else, even when the stress is off the charts, I encourage you to try. Take a stab at communicating even a small picture of what we all do to those who ask. Let them get a glimpse of the miraculous moments enveloped in the hard work and emotionally grueling days. Try to afford them a glimpse of the meaningful work we are privileged to do each day. Who knows, your answer may just peak their interest and we can gain yet another person wiling to champion the quality of life for those in their final years.
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