Seven years. This month marks seven years since I left for a three-month volunteer stint in Italy, which changed not only my career path, but my entire life. Though I’d worked overseas before, this trip was different; I quit my job at the kennel with no plan B prior to departure. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and committed to diving into the field of senior care head first without a safety net. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I consider August of 2014 to be the start of my “career”. Upon returning home, I officially joined the industry first in sales and marketing, then as Assistant Executive Director, and finally as Executive Director in 2017. It’s been quite a ride – a rollercoaster, really, with insanely high highs and incredibly challenging lows. To summarize, seven things I’ve done in the past seven years include:
1. Being a punching bag. No one wants to move into an assisted living community, and they certainly let you know it. The guilt families feel is heavy and often taken out on staff. We know not to take it personally, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.
2. Being the bearer of bad news. Having to share information that someone doesn’t necessarily want to hear can be brutal. For instance, explaining that there’s been a decline in their loved one’s physical or mental health. The worst, though, is being the one who delivers news that someone’s passed, especially considering how much you, too, have loved that someone. It never gets easier.
3. Running a building with little to no resources. My first job as an ED was for a company that was pennies from bankruptcy. Like, no-food-to-feed-our-residents level broke. I’ll share those details eventually, but I liken that time to the Great Depression; I felt like a mother sheltering her children from insufferable financial challenges. As dramatic as that sounds, it was truly that difficult.
4. Wearing many hats. There’s no way I could ever give a straight answer to the question “What’s a typical day like in your role?”. Operational tasks aside, I’ve hosted activities, served in the dining room, cleaned apartments, built furniture (in 4” heels, obvi), given bed baths, and driven the bus.. to name a few.
5. Protecting our nonnos/nonnas and team members at all costs. There’s nothing we wouldn’t collectively do to keep our residents and one another safe from this virus. There’s also nothing more gutting than when someone gets sick. God, it’s been a rough year.
6. Advocating for my loves. My dad has always said that if you do the right thing and provide good care, you’ll be successful – everything else will work itself out. I take my position and the goings-on at my community so personally, and feel fortunate to work amongst likeminded individuals with the biggest hearts (and work ethics to match).
7. Feeling more fulfilled than I could ever put into words. As insanely challenging as the past seven years have been, I wouldn’t change a thing. I know I’m biased, but I swear there is no profession on Earth that is more rewarding than working with seniors.. no feeling more gratifying than helping to make sure one’s end of life is filled with as much dignity, peace, and love as you can possibly provide.
Here’s to the next seven!