Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
In my last post, I wrote about some of the many things I do for residents as a long-term care psychologist. The astute reader will note that most of the tasks were accomplished during work hours and within the facility. There’s a reason for that.
When I first started out as a shrink, I worked at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, a setting similar to many nursing homes in that residents didn’t have access to stores and other amenities. “Next time you’re in the supermarket, will you get me some of that lotion I like?” “Can you buy me a new watch battery?”
The small requests were never-ending and because they were so small, I felt I couldn’t refuse.
And then there were the tasks I volunteered for because I could see the need and I was, you know, a nice person.
The breaking point came after I offered to darn a sweater with a small hole in the front. It was only after I got the sweater home that I discovered the large holes in the back. During the hours of mending — I didn’t want to go back on my word — I realized I had to set some limits on these “extras” or I’d quickly burn myself out on my chosen career.
Knowing I was in this for the long haul, I created a personal “no errands” policy. The exceptions are endeavors that connect residents to their loved ones, such as obtaining and mailing out holiday cards. (And, I admit, I relish Internet searches for estranged family members.) On the occasions where I’m tempted to do something really special, I soul-search and sometimes consult with an advisor to determine if it’s something I’d do for any of my residents or if I’m going too far for one particular person. It’s important to be fair, especially in the “small-town” LTC environment.
Potential for burnout