Mrs. Jones is exhausted, but she made it through 2020. She experienced so many changes in her life—losing some independence, experiencing health issues, and having to limit her time with her family to stay safe. It is fair to say she was glad to see another year come and go.
Mrs. Jones has been limited in what family she could see over the past few months, and she misses their faces and being in the same room. Despite the challenges of not seeing her family, she has enjoyed getting to know the staff at her assisted living.
Mrs. Jones has had to learn the staff by the personal touches they wear on their uniforms, or their hairstyle or their voice—because they are often covered up with masks and gowns for everyone’s safety. Mrs. Jones sits and thinks just how lucky she is that the men and women who take care of her continue to come to work each day. There is one staff member who comes in and says “hello” to Mrs. Jones each day. This staff member knows that Mrs. Jones moved in during the pandemic and has not been able to show off her new apartment or entertain family or guests in her new home. For some reason, this staff member had made a conscious decision to go above and beyond for Mrs. Jones.
One day, Mrs. Jones asked the staff member why she visits every day, even when it is out of her way. The staff member shook it off and just said, “Oh it’s no big deal!” Mrs. Jones could not believe that this staff member didn’t see the huge impact of her actions. Mrs. Jones told the staff member how meaningful her daily visits were and thanked her again. Then, unexpectedly, the staff member thanked Mrs. Jones—for giving her work meaning. Mrs. Jones had the sudden realization that perhaps her favorite staff member was equally encouraged by Mrs. Jones’ own kindness—and in fact they were invaluable to one another. Feeling empowered and grateful, Mrs. Jones hoped that every resident who was missing their family had the same good fortune to find a staff member who shows them care and compassion, and that those residents reciprocate that kindness.
There are so many wonderful and compassionate staff in long-term-care settings. This is a profession that is at times thankless, difficult, and has moments of great sadness. However, for many workers in long-term care, the biggest joy in their work is engaging with residents and learning from the wisdom of the older adults that they care for.
However, there is a staffing crisis in long-term care, with the need for competent and compassionate caregivers far exceeding the number of workers currently in the workforce. Long-term care staffing will take much legislation, advocacy, and bright ideas to move forward positively. We all want the assurance that when we need care, someone will be there for us.
If you want to learn more about long-term-care staffing or how the long-term-care profession is addressing their issues with staff, please reach out to the Ombudsman Program at 419-259-2891. While there is no quick fix, there is great value in sharing ideas and experiences to encourage change.
Megan Benner Senecal is a member of the Ombudsman Office.