What is a hero? Is it the soldier who risks his or her life on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq? Is it the fireman who clambers into a burning building to save people who are strangers? Is it a motorist or passerby who offers assistance at the scene of an auto accident without fearing bodily injury or a lawsuit? Is it the single mom with a terminal disease who juggles two jobs to keep her kids clothed and fed? People even classify some pro athletes as heroes. This is misplaced and a sad commentary on the excessive allure some in our society have to those who are rich and famous.
You pass heroes every day on your way to work. You rub shoulders with them in crowds, you stand behind them in the grocery store line. Heroes are everywhere-especially at long-term care facilities. I'll bet you could name three from your community with very little thought at all. (Maybe you're one!)
The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) recently celebrated six of its heroes. They are people who rose above their job function to new levels of resident care. Dominique Marcus, David Dickinson, Lorinda Nicol, Diego Gutierrez, Debbie Kinsey, and Maggie Amick took to the stage at the ALFA conference in Phoenix, humbled and grateful. They received a standing ovation. As the applause washed over them, a few looked uncomfortable but dazzled that what they do every day merited such attention. These are the true heroes; the everyday people who change one life at a time by kindness, thoughtfulness, and by looking at their job as more than something that merely pays the bills.
I challenge you to celebrate your heroes daily. It needn't be in the form of an awards ceremony. Noticing good work and complimenting it can go a long way to reinforcing the kind of behavior you want all of your staff to exhibit. On-the-spot recognition works best. Keep a few $25 gift certificates to local restaurants or movie theaters on hand. When you see someone doing something good or out of their normal work duties, hand them a certificate, say “thank you,” and watch the look on his or her face! That alone is worth it. You are not only rewarding behavior you want repeated, but you are cementing loyalty, esprit de corps, and personal worth.
Be a hero in your community by taking the time to recognize those who put others before themselves.
Maureen Hrehocik, Editor Long-Term Living 2010 July;59(7):8