Are You on This Tree?

When my son was 14 years old, he had the opportunity to volunteer at the nursing home which was part of a CCRC where I worked. He would come home from his once-weekly volunteer assignment and tell me about taking the rabbits to visit a resident or reading the Bible to a resident. One day, he came home particularly excited.

“Mom, I worked on the Alzheimer’s Unit today.”

This was a moment of pride for me because I knew they didn’t usually let junior volunteers work on the Alzheimer’s Unit.

He continued, “This lady came up to me and she said ‘Are you on this tree?’ and I knew just what to say. I said, ‘Yes, yes, I am on this tree. I remembered what you told me, Mom. You can’t reorient people with Alzheimer’s.”

It goes without saying that I was blown away by my son’s insight and his ability to integrate the stories I had told at home with his experience.

I tell this story not because I was proud of my son (still am), but because what keeps me up at night is not just worrying over performance in my communities, but the whole future of our industry: who will the next generation of Nursing Home Administrators and Executive Directors be? No young children are sitting at home right now dreaming of the day they can get their NHA license and start taking care of the elderly.

Someone asked me recently how I got into this business. My answer: I wish I knew! It seems most people in this business sort of stumble into it by accident. In my entire career I have known only one person who purposely became a NHA.

We need to find a way to encourage young people to seek out our business as their future. We owe it to the seniors of tomorrow to be out in schools and colleges talking about the joys that working in our industries brings and letting young people know what a viable career opportunity we have. And we need to work with our states to make reciprocity of licensure easier and more affordable.

One of these days, I will probably be asking, “Are you on this tree?” and I hope there will be a nice young man there to take care of me and join me in my world.

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