Like many of us do in our youth, Melissa Glynn chose her first career path — public accounting — based on the academic subjects that seemed to match her abilities at the time.
“As I was earning my degree, I knew I didn’t love accounting,” she remembers. “But I understood it and I enjoy Excel documents, so I thought I would learn to love it.”
Soon after graduating and starting work, however, she underwent what she calls “an early midlife crisis” and told her employer she was switching careers. Though she had no other concrete career plans, she knew she couldn’t spend the rest of her life in a job she disliked.
At the recommendation of other employees she knew, Melissa joined ACR homes in 2017. Because she had no experience caregiving or working with people with disabilities, the switch initially felt a bit out of her comfort zone.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “I just heard from numerous individuals that they really enjoyed working there, and I was desperate to find a job I loved to show up to each day.”
That initial learning curve was steep, and the early days were challenging as she worked to earn residents’ trust and better understand their nonverbal communication.
“The initial training is lengthy, and learning the residents’ routines takes time,” she adds. “There was a lot to learn, and you were given a lot of responsibility with caring for four peoples’ lives. But if you hang in there the trust will form, and it is the most gratifying experience.”
These days, Melissa works with four different residents with a range of physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Some of her regular responsibilities: helping them with daily cares, meal preparation, workouts and the administration of meds. In between, she takes them to appointments, family gatherings and fun destinations and assists with other tasks aimed at fostering independent and healthy lifestyles. A highlight last summer was accompanying a resident on a family lake house vacation, complete with bonfires, board games and boating.
“My residents are some of the happiest people I have ever met,” she notes. “Yes, they have days where they are upset or angry just like we all do. But they all just have an innate positive and thankful demeanor regarding life. When one of my residents smiles or gives me a hug, any of the stress I had coming into work with that day seems to just vanish for that moment in time.”
Another perk? Getting to know her co-workers.
“The staff are the most caring, fun and welcoming group of people I have ever met,” she says. “Most are going on to be doctors, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapists, or occupational therapists, so it is cool to be around people with similar ambitions and interests. The connection you form between all the staff and the residents feels like one big family.”
Happily, Melissa’s experiences networking with co-workers and helping residents keep therapy appointments have spurred a new career path. This fall, she’ll start a graduate program in occupational therapy at the University of Minnesota, with the “dream goal” of continuing to work with adults and geriatric people with disabilities. ACR has supported that goal by introducing her to others in the field who provided shadowing opportunities and academic letters of recommendation.
“On a professional level, ACR has given me the skills and confidence to further my career journey,” she explains. “Now I feel very comfortable communicating and assisting anyone no matter their disability. If I wouldn’t have had the courage to put a halt on the path I was going, to change directions … I would have never met my residents.”
Her advice for others considering work with ACR?
“Just do it. It may be new and scary and completely out of your comfort zone, but I promise you these residents will change your life in more ways than you can imagine.”