A little less than a week ago, I had the honor of leading two break out sessions for the Wisconsin Representatives of Activity Professionals at their state conference. In one of the sessions, "Finding the Instructions for Yourself," I read some thoughts I came up with in order to help the attenders gain insight into the special challenges that face rec therapists and activity directors. Several people asked for a copy so the thoughts follow below. I'm glad they were encouraging and hope they encourage others. xo Susan
So how do you get through? You must do this job because of who you are. Your performance cannot depend on the worthiness or reactions of others. Day after day you try to respond to clients, family and staff with kindness, empathy,and never ending patience. Because the one thing we know,is that when people pass through our lives, we rarely remember the exact words that were exchanged or specifically how we spent our time together. We remember how we felt when we were with them. And for you, your hope is that your clients feel safe, accepted,and valuable.Your words, your actions, your demeanor, never perfect on any day, must be characterized, overall, with kindness, patience, and acceptance. And this, NOT because of the worthiness of the clients, their family, or staff. Anyone who has done this job for more than a day knows that if you're hoping for gratitude or for acknowledgement of your role in a client's life, you'll probably be waiting a long time. Even the ancillary disciplines, therapies or nursing, may not fully understand what you do. This lack of understanding frequently comes off as a lack of respect for your plans or time. You may feel trivialized or pushed aside for the least little bump in the road. How sad.
The truth is, day after day, you are required to form deep emotional bonds with clients that will either leave you or die. In order to do your job well, you must be invested in their lives, in their progress, in their success. As their minds and bodies fail them, you notice. You have to notice in order to adapt and come up with another plan. You spend time thinking about what is best for them, what would benefit them, what would elicit happy memories, remind them of life's goodness, bring them joy. You do it because this is your calling and you believe that these "extras" or "non-essentials" make up what we call "quality of life." The connections, the memories, the change of pace, the new sights and sounds, this is what makes the difference between "living" and "existing." God knows you don't need the hassle of maneuvering six wheelchairs around an apple orchard. You do it because life is for living and where there's life there's hope. And a good life is made up of moments; moments that take effort and planning, and never seem to go the way you expect. But these moments add up to what we call quality of life and that's what you do.You set up environments where these moments can happen.
What you do is hard. But at the same time, it's essential. In a world where clients are living a life they no longer recognize, your invitation to an activity or your words of concern fill needs for security and esteem. Your simple actions convey that they are noticed, wanted, and loved. Thank you.