Cathy is an Occupational Therapist and freelance writer. Her short story “Afterward”, published in the Chrysalis Reader was nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize – Best of Small Presses. She has had short stories published in the Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine, r-kv-r-y Quarterly, The Literary Bone, Touched By Wonder Anthology, and was a finalist in the “Family Matters” competition of Glimmer Train Magazine; as well as a two article series in Cabin Life Magazine. Read more about Cathy at her website. -- AP
Whenever I tell someone I work in a nursing home, I get one of two reactions. Either they draw back from me, like it might be catching, or they say, “Really? Why?” Most people seem to think that working in a nursing home – or Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) as it’s more accurately called – is a terribly depressing job. I have to say, I’ve always found it to be just the opposite. I’ve worked as an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and worked in over a dozen nursing homes and with only one exception, they’ve been fun places to work.
Let’s look at the staff first. Working in a nursing home is not something you do for the money or as a gateway to commercial success. But the people who choose to work in this setting are generally cheerful – there’s a lot of laughter in most of the SNF’s I’ve worked in. I think it’s because it takes a special kind of person to work there, and those that do, have a pretty high level of job satisfaction. Their work matters; and they know it. The residents become a form of large extended family with warmth and affection on both sides.
Then you have the residents. They’re usually not well, often in pain – mental and/or physical – and they’re dependant on others for most of their basic needs. And yet, in spite of all of this, most residents manage to keep both a sense of humor and a sense of self intact that allows them to form close personal relations with the staff. Even the residents with mild to severe dementia manage to maintain that level of person-to-person contact and affection that is hard to understand for those who haven’t experienced it.
When I set out to write my cozy mystery, it seemed natural to set it in a nursing home. ‘Write what you know’ is excellent advice, and I know the nursing home milieu very well and have almost 30 years of stored anecdotes to support it. In my book “Dr. George and Mr. Hyde”, I had two goals, to write an entertaining mystery, and also, to capture the atmosphere of the places I’ve worked and hopefully take away some of the stigma associated with them.
Thanks so much for being our guest today, Cathy. Readers, have you had experiences with assisted living or skilled nursing facilities? Let’s hear from you. -- AP