By Jill Vitale-Aussem, LNHA, MMH, author of Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift
I thought perhaps a few of my friends would check out my first blog post, “Nursing Homes Need Support, Not Blame.” To my great surprise, over 144,000 people have read it so far.
What that tells me is that our field is in desperate need of validation and support.
In the past couple of weeks, negative stories about nursing homes have increased. I’m enraged and heartbroken every time a new COVID-19 story breaks. Because I hear first-hand from those in the field how hard they’re working, how they’re smiling when they feel like crying, and how they refuse to give up in one of the most stressful and terrifying times of their lives.
Why? Because of their dedication to the elders they support.
Eldercare teams are wearing brave faces right now. They’re keeping their heads down and doing what needs to be done in the midst of this horrible crisis. They’re feeling the pain of seeing hospital workers and first responders being rightly honored, while their own work seems all but invisible to the world. When their profession is mentioned in the news, it’s usually under a headline casting blame on the field.
Unless we start supporting those working in eldercare, they’ll eventually burn out. They’ll be traumatized, not only from battling the virus, but from fighting a war only to have society disregard them.
What will happen then? I predict the fallout will be serious and long-lasting.
Our aging population is growing and the need for care will only increase in the future. We were experiencing a staffing crisis even before the pandemic. Our country can’t afford to lose more eldercare professionals. And we can’t afford to further stigmatize careers in this field.
We have a big decision to make about how we move forward during this crisis.
Do we value older people in our country? Do we want to be able to support the growing cohort of elders in the future? If so, we need to value and support those who have committed their lives and careers to caring for them.
Want to help?
Show your support for nursing homes and other eldercare organizations, especially those that are in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Those nursing homes you’re seeing on the news are full of human beings who are devastated and hurting. Reach out and ask how you can help.
Find ways to honor those that work in nursing homes and other eldercare settings.
They deserve, and need, recognition as much as hospital workers, first responders and other essential workers. I know teams that have been lifted up by the simple act of neighbors writing their appreciation in chalk on the sidewalks leading to the building.
Share this blog and any other article that supports the field of aging services.
Or, better yet, write your own blog, or an opinion piece, or a letter to the editor.
Find your voice and use it!
About Jill Vitale-Aussem
Jill Vitale-Aussem, LNHA, MMH, is President and CEO of The Eden Alternative. She writes and speaks nationally on topics of culture, leadership, and ageism. She is a licensed nursing home administrator, a LeadingAge Academy Fellow, and a Certified Eden Alternative Educator with over two decades of experience in leading senior living communities in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. She is the author of Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift (Health Professions Press/AARP).
Start the MINDSHIFT
Can you have a great life in a nursing home? This book, co-published with AARP, says “yes!” and challenges us all to question long-accepted practices, examine our own biases, and work toward creating vibrant cultures of possibility and growth for elders.