I have often been known to say that attitude is not everything, it is the only thing. That is, in one single sentence, my approach to hiring and working with and developing people. Of course, at a baseline, people have to have had the right training or credentials and all the rest, but I would rather take someone whose skills are less, or who have less experience, but come with energy and enthusiasm and positivity. So many things can be taught but the right attitude, well, that’s the foundation upon which all else is built.
What I have realized as well is that, in our world of elder care services, attitude also has to go hand-in-hand with passion, passion for the work that we do, passion for older adults, passion for connecting with people in this later stage of their life. To be effective in caring for elders, we have to understand and respect that these individuals have lived long and meaningful lives, that they have contributed greatly to our society and to our world, that they have had careers and families and achievements. No one is a room number or a diagnosis or a difficult behavior to manage. Each elder is a unique person with a unique story to tell.
Elder care is not easy work. It’s not a “job” where you come into work, punch a clock, put in your time and go home. It’s a commitment to knowing that the needs of the elders come first, it’s an understanding that some days and some situations are difficult, it’s the knowledge that the interactions you have, and decisions you make, have a significant impact both on the elder and on you. Your job is with you all the time as, regardless of the role you play, you inevitably remember and revisit moments that stand out to you. Ask anyone who works in an elder care setting—they have a story to share, an elder they became close to, an interaction that they will never forget.
During the dark days—and years—when COVID cast a shadow over all of us, especially those of us who work with older adults, passion was what drove us to come to work every day. We put aside our own fears and ignored our families asking us why we had to go to work. We fought our way through limited resources and even more limited information and we did anything and everything to save the lives of the elders entrusted to our care.
That is not just attitude. That is full on passion. That is the drive born by passion, that intense feeling of connection to those we serve, that strong emotion that pushes us to give all we have . . . and then give more. What a gift it is to have this kind of feeling about the work we do and what a gift it is to work with people who share that and who bring it to life every day.