Some people go to work and expect to do their job and then go home at the end of the day. Working in recreation isn’t so cut and dry. We wear many hats. Compassion is a huge part of why we began working in this field. That may require us stepping outside of our comfort zone at times.
Eleven years ago, I was faced with the first “hardest day of my career”. One male resident who I always would enjoy witty banter with had gotten very sick. When his nurse called his family, they said to “call them when he was dead”. It was heartbreaking to hear. Yes, every family has a history but looking at this man who was always clever and funny and knowing he was basically going to die without any family by his side, I had to step up. Even though it wasn’t a part of my job, I stayed until the evening to hold his hand until he passed on. It was one of the first times I actively saw someone pass and it broke my heart. It wasn’t something I wanted to see but I couldn’t let him end his life without someone who cared about him by his side.
Another moment that I will never forget is when a resident who I was very close to had to find out two horrible things that no one should ever have to hear in one day. Not only did she hear her daughter passed from cancer, but also her daughter’s son, her grandson, then killed himself four days later. I was asked to be in the room when social services spoke to her because they knew what a close bond we had. My palms were sweating like they never had before, and I was trying to force a gentle smile before I began to cry. When she was told, that’s when my heart broke for her. She just looked like she was in disbelief until it sank in. Up until this point I had never shown emotion at a job. But I just broke down right with her and hugged her as she cried. It was a cry that I would never forget. She clutched to my shoulders as if she was falling and needed someone to hold her. It was the most awful thing I had witnessed.
These horrible and significant events are never comfortable for us, but sometimes we have to be there for the harder times. With the relationships we build we also build trust and when someone trusts us with all of their heart, we have to show them that we will always be there to comfort and support them. I was always terrified of confronting uncomfortable situations but looking back, I don’t regret having been there in what were the hardest moments of both of their lives. You as an activity professional have such a profound relationship with the seniors you care for daily and may not even realize how important you are to them, but you are, and when they are faced with the roughest of times, always extend a helping hand.
by: Krista Fischer, ADC, Creator of My Activity Resources