Guest Editorial

Inspiration Might Be Closer Than You Think
by Daniel W. Farley, PhD, CNHA
Few will argue that the field of long-term care is like the journey into aging. Various professionals look around and ask, “Am I ready for this?” As I was writing this article, I visited and held discussions with colleagues who offered less-than-positive stories about their experiences in long-term care. Too often, they expressed frustration with residents and family members who failed to say “thank you” for service received, with their constant paperwork overload, and with having no time to “have a life.”

No doubt, prices are paid, personal and otherwise, to care for others in this field, and it seems today that many are questioning whether they want to stay in the field, or even begin with it. For those who do stay, doing their life’s work in long-term care will be no bed of roses. For the most committed-the best within all long-term care professions composing the “rainbow” of talent within the field-there will be a reward. But the challenge will be to find it.

History has shown that turnarounds in life often come not through luck or good fortune, but through a tenacious drive and determination to never give up. One need only think about biblical characters, inventors, or history’s notable voices for personal justice. Were it not for such personalities, people would have no hope of life beyond death, artificial light would come from candles, and human rights would never have leaped to the forefront of human concerns.

History has also taught that role models are available in all walks of life. Clearly, long-term care professionals have examples available everywhere. We might learn a lot by tapping into residents’ stories and learning their secrets. As George E. Vaillant, MD, suggests in his book Aging Well, aging can be best accomplished by following persons who have made it through (analogous, perhaps, to following someone through a minefield).

It could be that answers will be found in the depths of many residents’ abiding spiritual belief that humans are not in control of life after all. They’ve found that principles exist that provide sustaining power sufficient to provide answers through grave economic times or deep personal losses. It could be that our problems, as long-term care professionals, pale in contrast to those life challenges that have been faced by those we serve.

Talking with those we serve to learn about their “best practices” might enable us to find the strength to move through personal difficulties of our own. If we seek solutions from those in our midst, and believe in ourselves, the outcome could be magical in the renewed strength that we find.

We may learn that life is not about “me,” but about “we.” I believe that our residents would teach us that it’s about building relationships. It’s about collaboration, not competition. It’s about teamwork, acknowledging that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It’s about maximizing resources, fiscal and human, to find more effective ways to serve.

A career built on principles and informed choices should enable professionals in the field of long-term care to excel. And the inspiration for this is, for many such professionals, so close at hand. NH

Daniel W. Farley, PhD, CNHA, is president/CEO, GlenWood Park Retirement Village, Princeton, W. Va. For further information, phone (304) 425-8128 or fax (304) 487-1338. To comment on this editorial, e-mail

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