Leaving a Legacy: Laying Bricks or Building Cathedrals?

As the story goes, a traveler sees three bricklayers. He asks each one what they are doing. One says “laying bricks,” another states that he is “building a wall,” and the third person says, “I’m building cathedrals.” What an interesting view of work, purpose, and legacy.

What are we doing?

These days, at this time, many of us may be thinking about our work, our purpose, and our legacy. Why do we do what we do? What do we see as our place in this world? If you are working in long-term care, it is an especially valuable question to ask, especially when our role in long-term care is already difficult.

Choices and challenges

There are challenges in balancing safety versus quality of life. These challenges compel us to think about existing versus thriving, surviving versus living. The choices we make on behalf of the older adults we serve have a significant impact on their lives. For those who are the most vulnerable, we have to take the most caution. But how do we decide? And, at this time, are we able to make those decisions? Or are we required to follow some other guidance, more stringent regulations, in order to promote physical health?

Living or Surviving?

No matter what decisions are made, the people who serve and work with older adults living in long-term care communities still make a difference. Even as they adhere to guidelines that may emphasize protection and create social isolation, their role is even more important. They are not just keeping people safe, they are responsible for keeping older adults alive and thriving, while maintaining their wellbeing under some of the most difficult circumstances. And the end is not in sight.

Leaving a Legacy

We need to support our caregivers in long term care with a living wage, more respect, and more empowerment. Direct care workers provide the largest balance of care for older adults. We should consider our collective legacy in how we treat and care for the most vulnerable people in our population. We cannot afford to treat long-term care workers feel like they are only laying bricks when they are  responsible for building cathedrals.

What do we want our legacy to be?


Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

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