You can’t please everyone. I know this. I KNOW THIS…and yet, it still stings when, at the end of a long and hectic shift, I leave feeling like my best was just not enough. We all have our more challenging residents, especially when the assisted living facility is, in reality, part mental health institution and part nursing home.
It is my “difficult” folks that have taught me the most and through caring for them that I’ve learned the art of negotiation, compromise, persuasion, redirection, and perseverance; the absolute necessity of consistency when establishing and maintaining mutual trust. “Challenging”,I can handle. “Challenging”, I find inspiring…blatant and unreasonable hatred for no apparent reason, however, is a horse of a different color.
“Ok, Alice. You can do this.”, I think to myself as I approach the door to take care of Mr.___. My elevated blood pressure is not due to him. He is delightful. I ADORE Mr.___, who manages to maintain his sense of humor, despite having lived through wars, blindness, countless operations and untold struggles. Mr.___ is total care. No. My unease is due to his roommate, a relatively young and healthy man who, as far as I can tell, only needs us to get his coffee and towels.
“Oh great. The bitch is back”, I hear him mutter under his breath as I enter the room. Awesome. The man HATES me and he is not shy about letting everyone know it. I understand that he is angry at his situation. I get that. I do. But it doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable for me.
This was my first experience with a resident who genuinely dislikes me. At first, I would go home and rack my brain…Maybe if I am quieter in the room, maybe he’s not a morning person, maybe if I smile more. What did I do wrong and what can I do better? I was driving myself crazy. It really bothered me and it wasn’t long before I noticed that it was affecting the mood of my day and the joy I take in what we do. I had to reassess the situation because long-term negativity could lead to burn out and affect the quality of my work. I had to let it go.
The fact is that we work with people. Sick people who are sometimes angry and who have their own personalities and character defects. It is up to us to work around them.
No one likes to feel bullied. It’s not fun to be called a bitch. It hurts to think that no matter how much effort I put in, I am powerless over another person’s opinion, but I have a job to do and being “liked” is not a prerequisite to me performing my work well. I think we have to step back sometimes, not just as caregivers but as human beings, and ask ourselves if we are more concerned with whether we are actually doing a good job or whether others THINK that we are. That is the lesson I am taking from this experience. It held a mirror to my face and made me understand that I was upset because my ego was hurt and there is little room for ego in what we do.
As I was finishing up my last round and saying my goodbyes at the end of my shift the other day, another one of my folks told me that I was not allowed to quit until she died and she planned to live to 110, which means I’ve got another 40 years to go. I smiled to myself, as I punched out for the day and thought, “Well, Alice, You win some you lose some.”